Public school teachers and their unions are a critical component of the Democrats’ coalition in Minnesota, especially in the Democrats’ urban strongholds. One-party rule is the order of the day in Minneapolis and St. Paul. That would be the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
The St. Paul public high schools have encountered serious turbulence following the district’s removal of “continual willful disobedience” from the list of suspendable violations three years ago — in the name of racial equity of course. To quote President Obamas favorite clergyman, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”
Violence has become a staple of school life at St. Paul public high schools. Fights among students are commonplace. Teachers have been injured breaking them up. When a loaded gun turned up in the backpack of a student at Harding High School earlier this year (authorities were looking for marijuana they smelled on him), the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune took a look back at the action. Just to add more spicy to an already spicy story, the 16-year-old student claimed in juvenile court to have found the (stolen) gun lying in the weeds, like Moses.
St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva called a press conference to announce: “It’s a pretty sad day for me as a superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools to be standing here and talking about issues of violence” (KSTP story with Silva press conference below). The days since then have only grown sadder for Silva.
This week a popular teacher at St. Paul’s Central High School was hospitalized with a brain injury that he sustained while trying to break up a fight. He had been choked into unconsciousness in a fight over football statistics. An assistant principal was also injured in the process. A 16-year-old student has been charged with felony assault.
In its story on the incident, the Star Tribune reports that Silva has announced the expulsion of an unnamed student in a letter to teachers. The Star Tribune adds this piquant fact: “It would be the first time since Nov. 2009 that the school board has voted to expel a student[.]…District officials did not confirm if the student expelled was the one who brought a loaded gun to St. Paul Harding High School in October. The expulsion was the first to occur under Silva’s watch.”
But at least we’re getting closer to racial equity in school discipline. Zero expulsions in five years is quite an achievement. So how have the past five years gone in the absence of expulsions? This must be a coincidence:
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi revealed data that give a local glimpse, saying his office has seen an alarming increase in cases of student-on-staff school violence. Choi said that the Central case was the 27th presented to his office this year under a gross misdemeanor statute that protects school officials from being assaulted or harmed. Cases have almost doubled in the past year, he said, and are up 60 percent over the previous five-year average.
St. Paul Federation of Teachers President Denise Rodriguez has a good question. The Star Tribune quotes her: “Ask yourself this. Do students and staff deserve to come to work every day and not expect to be assaulted? … Teachers want to know who has our back with this violence.”
Rodriguez has filed a petition for mediation, the predicate to calling a strike. The union’s ideas for mitigating the violence would be about as effectual as Silva herself, to whom the petition comes as a great surprise. The union is “calling for restorative justice practices being implemented across the district — a move [Silva] said she does not oppose — teachers also are seeking raises of 2.5 percent a year over two years.” The Star Tribune summarizes the union’s proposal (more details here):
The teachers union is pitching a proposal to improve school climate by drawing upon the expertise of counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists, and by putting schools in charge of efforts to turn around problem behavior. The district, eyeing what could be an expensive proposal, instead has offered to convene a committee to study the issue and develop a plan that is financially sustainable.
Well, I’m rooting against both management and the union. Regardless of who wins, students will be the losers.