Minneapolis Faces Backlash for Laying Off Minority Teachers

Minority Minneapolis teachers say they’re being laid off for fighting for their students’ rights.

MINNEAPOLIS – About 100 protesters flooded a Minneapolis Public Schools board meeting to demand several minority educators be reinstated in the jobs lost during budget cuts.

The Star Tribune reports that protesters were initially barred from entering the crowded meeting. Once in, they made a strong mark on the meeting. The board caved in and passed a school board resolution to rehire or give formal recommendation to rehire several educators.

“The equity conversation has been a part of the discussions we’ve had both at the school level and the district level,” Superintendent Ed Graff said amid hissing protesters reports the Star Tribune.

Protesters reportedly did not have actual figures on nonwhite educators let go throughout the district. Graff announced in a February letter that the district was facing a $28 million budget shortfall for the next school year, reports the Star Tribune. Graff’s plan to handle the shortfall included a 10 percent reduction in Central Services, and a 2.5 percent cut to school allocations.

The Social Justice Education Movement organized Tuesday’s protest and claimed in a press release that it had records of more than a dozen employees being “pushed out for advocating for students.”

The release presented several examples of educators claiming they were fired for expressing concerns with punishment practices for students. One of these includes punishing students by giving them a cold lunch rather than a hot one.

Michelle Benson, African American Special Education Assistant, taught at Riverbend. She says she was fired three days prior to the end of her probationary period because she expressed concerns about the cold lunch punishment practice.

Students would come to me, furious about having to eat cold lunch because of misbehavior,” said Benson in the release, “I could not impose that kind of power struggle, especially on children who are food insecure. I was appalled to find out that taking the side of students was grounds for insubordination.”

“Disciplinary decisions are made based on facts and with due process,” said the district in a post-meeting statement, “The Superintendent believes it is critically important that our students have access to the best staff — including staff who reflect our student population and advocate for the needs of our students.”

Anders Koskinen