A St. Paul, Minn., teacher is the latest person to feel the wrath of a Black Lives Matter group, according to a May 31 report from Minneapolis City Pages.
Theodore Olson was officially removed from his teaching position a few weeks ago due to outside pressure from the St. Paul branch of the Black Lives Matter. His removal centered on an August 2015 blog post of his that said, “Would you like to be stomped on like a puppy mill dog by multiple administrators year after year, destroying your mastery?”
[dcquiz] The battle began back in March, when Rashad Turner, leader of the Black Lives Matter St. Paul chapter, released excerpts of Olson’s blog through his Twitter and Facebook account. Olson’s blog revealed his frustration with the school’s policies toward student behavior and administrative decision making. In a Feb. 15 post, Olson wrote, “If the only way for you to do better is for me to fit my big forehead into a pointy white hat, then we’re both in trouble. We’re in trouble. I know we’re both cornered, you, young Black man, I, old white dude teacher.”
He revealed more of his anger toward his school in a post after July 14: “I had 95% African American students, and team taught third-grade in the same room all day with an African American woman who really was marginally qualified as an instructor out of the St. Mary’s Collaborative Urban Educator (CURE) program.” These and other posts led Turner to claim that Olson’s writings were synonymous with “racism” and “white supremacy.”
Olson maintains that his concern was for student safety and development.
In recent years, school safety has become a pressing issue in St. Paul. The school district has pursued a policy of avoiding the suspension or expulsion of students whenever possible, in the hopes that doing so will improve student outcomes and break the so-called “school to prison pipeline.” But critics say the policy has simply led to a surge in violence and disruption at schools, since teachers are generally powerless to enforce order in class or remove disruptive elements.
The day Olson was placed on paid leave following an initial investigation in March, two students assaulted another teacher, putting him in the hospital.
“Probably the worst thing was to lose contact with my students and colleagues at Como,” Olson told Minneapolis City Pages, the local news affiliate, “and seeing my reputation damaged. My family has endured hate speech going on three months. After 16 years, participating in Saint Paul initiatives to lower the egregious disparities between white students and students of color, English language learners, poverty, special ed, disability, and reaching out to GLBTQ and transgender students, it’s been a nightmare to be characterized as insensitive in any way, racially or otherwise.”
Principal Theresa O’Neal could only say, “I am not at liberty to discuss personnel issues of any St. Paul Public School employee.”
Olson is not the only teacher to face the wrath of the Black Lives Matter group; as City Pages reports, a fellow teacher at Como Park Senior High, Kathy Farm, also drew the attention of Black Lives Matter after allegations circulated that Farm told a student that she deserved to get beat up.
Though an investigation has since found Farm innocent, Como Park Senior High has made it clear she is no longer welcome to teach.
Blake Neff contributed to this report
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