Ricardo Oliva, the son of Minnesota Twins legend Tony Oliva, is running for another term on the Bloomington School Board.
A music instructor and data engineer, Oliva served on the board from 2014-2017 but did not seek a second term. This year, Oliva decided to throw his hat in the ring once again — but it hasn’t been easy.
“I have been accused of changing my name to sound more Latino, been compared to Nazis, and it was said I want to force anti-inclusion policies including erasure of LGBTQ existence,” he said in a campaign update.
The “Nazi” comparison came by way of his support for age-appropriate materials in schools.
“Nazis banned books. Yes, and so has everyone else who has ever differentiated between what is age appropriate and what isn’t for their child. Spoiler alert, the schools already do this. There are laws governing some content, and other content is up to staff discretion,” said Oliva, who served as chair of the school board for one year and attended Bloomington Public Schools for K-12.
“But now wanting to have a conversation about revising those policies because there is some content that I find may not actually be age appropriate and wanting to provide a framework where perhaps parents could ‘opt-in’ in order for their children to still have access to it gets me compared to a Nazi. These types of statements minimize the horrors of the Holocaust and you should be ashamed of yourselves for saying them,” he said.
Oliva was asked to expand upon his views on the issue during a candidate forum, where he mentioned that, since leaving the board, he has published a children’s book about his father.
“It’s called ‘Little Tony: The Heroic Journey of Tony Oliva,’ and it talks about when he came to this country from Cuba in the 1960s as a black man,” he said. “He would be at ‘work’ — he was a baseball player — he would be at work and people would be yelling, ‘Hey, [slur], go back to the jungle and play with the monkeys.’”
“I didn’t put that in the book because it was meant for children. If I did put that in the book, and you objected to it being in an elementary school, I wouldn’t blame you,” Oliva said.
“So I think it’s important that we take a look at this and say: if there are subjects and language used that you couldn’t say on network television or on nightly news, then it’s at least worth having a conversation if it should be an opt-in or restricted program where maybe juniors or seniors in high school can have access to it but not in the lower grades,” he explained.
Oliva is one of six candidates vying for three open seats on the board in Tuesday’s election. Heather Stark, Nelly Korman and Mia Olson are endorsed by Education Minnesota (teachers union); Oliva, Sandra Johnson, and Langa Ohiro are endorsed by the Minnesota Parents Alliance.