On March 22, 2016, City Pages reported that Black Lives Matter St. Paul had published copies of Como Park special education teacher, Theo Olson’s private blog on the group’s Facebook page, calling the release of the now-shut down blog posts akin to a “data dump” meant to inflame those planning to attend the BLM St. Paul rally at the SPPS board meeting the next day.
When describing the blog posts, City Pages noted:
Within the document stack, it’s not easy to find any smoking-gun evidence of overt racism against his students, or other non-white people. Olson’s perspective in the writing comes from the often uncomfortable role of a white man trying to engage non-white students.
The blog posts are more than that which City Pages describes. Some posts were works of fiction from a series of short stories Olson and another teacher were working on based on their personal experiences as teachers. Other posts show someone caught in a situation where the struggle to teach kids with all kinds of disabilities is exacerbated by the demands of the school and district administration – for paperwork, random observations; spending a year learning a curriculum just to have another curriculum dumped on him to be learned. Frustration with the teachers’ union and required training from Pacific Education Group “spewing platitudes;” a teacher feeling bullied by the administration and trying to do every thing in his power to help the kids in his classes.
The blog shows exhaustion and aggravation with the school district. It shows desperation to help kids, and a realism about what is going on in the Twin Cities’ schools, particularly St. Paul and Minneapolis districts, that is both shocking and heartbreaking.
Rashad Turner and Black Lives Matter have made Theo Olson an example of a teacher they don’t believe should be teaching minority students. St. Paul Public Schools was quick to placate BLM SP by placing Olson on paid administrative leave: was Olson’s criticism of SPPS policies a factor in that decision?
St. Paul Public Schools have had over 44 instances of student violence this year – eclipsing the 41 reported for all of 2015. Are Theo Olson’s blog posts racist as the Black Lives Matter group accuses or is BLM St. Paul really objecting to Theo Olson’s heartfelt and realistic portrayal of students, schools and a community in crisis?