Brainerd schools approve ‘commitment to equity’ despite community backlash

The board passed a similar commitment to "Equity for All Students" last year after the death of George Floyd.

Community members weren't allowed to offer any input but held signs to express their opposition to the equity agenda. (Brainerd Public School/YouTube)

At its July 19 meeting, the Brainerd School Board approved a district-wide “letter of commitment to equity” despite opposition from community members and parents.

The board already passed a similar commitment to “Equity for All Students” last year after the death of George Floyd. This new letter is an expression of “re-committing to this important work.” 

The letter states that the board will hire “a District Student Services and Equity Director” while enriching “the curriculum to reflect all racial, ethnic, cultural, age, gender, and ability diversities.”

The district also intends to teach “culturally relevant curriculum offerings” and create a “multi-disciplinary advisory task force” that includes individuals “who are skilled in cultural competency and equity.”

Another commitment in the letter calls for “a thorough review of district policies, procedures and handbook expectations to ensure equity for all.”

The letter passed on a vote of 4-1 by the board. Tom Haglin delivered the one dissenting vote. Jana Shogren, who voted in favor of the letter, acknowledged that “this isn’t an easy topic” or “something everyone feels exactly the same” about but said “we have to push past, we have to learn to grow.”

“Equality and equity are not the same thing,” said board member Kevin Boyles, adding that “if racial equity is your issue, that’s fine, we can have a dialogue about that.”

The public wasn’t allowed to offer comment since it was a “special” meeting, but several concerned parents and community members held signs expressing their opposition.

Just last month, opponents of the letter and critical race theory as a whole attended the Brainerd School Board meeting to express concerns over the direction the district was headed.

“I firmly believe what Martin Luther King said, that we judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. Equity, to me, is nothing more than instituting racism. And I don’t care what color you are, if you’re instituting one has more favor than another, that’s racism,” said Doug Kern, husband to former school board member Sue Kern.

Similar battles are taking place in districts across the state of Minnesota. One student in Sartell was told to hide an equity survey given out by the district from her parents. Another student in the Apple Valley-Eagan-Rosemount school district came forward to announce his departure from the district due to his school making him and others feel “guilty for just existing.”

Owatonna High School has begun to offer an “introduction to Critical Race Theory” course and a Forest Lake Area High School teacher has vowed to continue teaching CRT. This comes as the U.S. Secretary of Education walked back his previous encouragement of the teaching of CRT.


Megan Olson

Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.