St. Paul Como Park Senior High School teacher Theo Olson used to have a public blog, a place to deposit all the thoughts and experiences he had as a teacher. Eventually, Olson changed the blog's settings to make it private.
As of Monday night, some of Olson's musings are public again. Very much so: Black Lives Matter St. Paul published print-outs of 60 pages' worth of the blog, "hot-spvrr."
Previously, the St. Paul activist group's major argument for firing Olson, who has been placed on leave by the St. Paul School District, had centered on a pair of Facebook posts the special education teacher had written. Monday night's release amounts to a data dump, adding reams of evidence to the group's case that Olson is unfit to be teaching at a school where about three-quarters of the students are non-white.
The activist outfit helmed by Rashad Turner gave a minimalist introduction to its posting, writing that the blog excerpts should help people see the "problematic" nature of his already public Facebook postings.
"Is this the type of person you think is fit to mentor our future?" BLM St. Paul asks.
The blog includes candid commentary on Olson's dealings with students and school administrators, along with what looks like his attempts at turning those experiences into fiction.
Within the document stack, it's not easy to find any smoking-gun evidence of overt racism against his students, or other non-white people. Olson's perspective in the writing comes from the often uncomfortable role of a white man trying to engage non-white students.
In one post, from February 15, just weeks before Olson became a figure of public criticism, he addressed this feeling in a short, context-free post, which hinges on imagery of Olson donning a Ku Klux Klan outfit:
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. It’s debatable what I could impart to you. You’re the face of the future; I’m the face of reflection.
Another post, this one from summer 2014, titled "School's Greatest Hits," cuts to the heart of recent controversy over violence in St. Paul schools.
That post continues on in the same vein, switching from fight to fight. The blue phrases highlighted in these passages were noted by Black Lives Matter St. Paul, which attempts to draw the reader's attention to particularly troubling phrases or thoughts.
In another offering, from January of this year, Olson writes about returning from a teachers union meeting attended by roughly 200 of his colleagues.
According to Olson, the district's push toward racial equity among students involves forcing teachers to acknowledge their white supremacy. "Few teachers want to denigrate themselves any further as racists... while they watch chairs and blood go flying," Olson writes.
One post, apparently a work of fiction — Olson introduces himself as "Tom O'Shea, North End teacher" — seems fitting for Olson's current moment.
In that tale, Olson writes about a fellow teacher who has gone missing, and is suspected of suicide. Olson's character sympathizes with the desperation that might've driven his colleague to abandon hope in the face of school bureaucracy.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul highlights much of this passage, with a note in the margins saying it shows that Olson "hates his job but won't quit." (Note: The "Fred" in this piece is the fictional teacher who has gone missing.)
Black Lives Matter St. Paul timed the release of the documents to inspire support for a rally at this evening's St. Paul Board of Education meeting. Pitching theirs as a "counter-rally" to react to public support parents and other teachers have shown Olson, BLM St. Paul says Olson is "an example of others whose attitudes are hurting students' potential."
There's nothing on the school board's agenda about Olson specifically, though there is an "open meeting to hear public comment." It is safe to assume a few people will have something — more likely, some very different things — to say about Theo Olson.