Black Lives Matter St. Paul will meet with leaders of the Saint Paul Public School District today to discuss the activist group's complaints against a single teacher, Theo Olson. Black Lives Matter St. Paul leader Rashad Turner has zeroed in on a couple Facebook posts of Olson's that he claims show Olson is unfit to teach at Como Park Senior High School.
To date, BLM St. Paul has produced only a couple pieces of evidence in its case against Olson, a special ed teacher with 10 years' experience. Both were posted to the group's Facebook page last week, and both are, themselves, Facebook posts.
It seems Olson had a penchant for using social media to vent his frustration, both his day-to-day experiences in the classroom, and for the public perception about, or simply against, himself and his fellow teachers. In one, he wrote:
Anyone care to explain to me the school-to-prison pipeline my colleagues and I have somehow created, or perpetuated, or not done enough to interrupt? Because if you can't prove it, and campaigns you've waged to deconstruct adult authority in my building by enabling student misconduct, you seriously owe us real teachers an apology. Actually, an apology won't cut it.
In another, Olson complains about being unable to stop kids from using their phones — either for fun or, he says, for criminal activity.
Phones and iPad devices, used for social media and gaming. There have always been rules for "devices," and defined levels of misconduct. Since we now have no backup, no functional location to send kids who won't quit gaming, setting up fights, selling drugs, whoring trains, or cyber bullying, we're screwed, just designing our own classroom rules. Hopefully tomorrow's settlement will begin to fix this.Olson's mini-rant is a reference to the sentiment among some St. Paul teachers that they can no longer police their schools, which have had a noted uptick in violence, including some instances of student-on-teacher assault. The line about a "settlement" appears to be a reference to the deal struck between the St. Paul Public Schools and the local teachers union.
The union voted Friday to approve the new contract, which will see the hiring of 30 new full-time staffers — including counselors, social workers, and psychologists — aimed at alleviating the discipline issues; the deal also has $4.5 million set aside for schools looking to transition from punitive to "restorative justice" programs.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul, helmed by the firebrand Rashad Turner, had threatened to stage a "shutdown action" at Olson's school if the teacher wasn't fired immediately for his posts. Turner called Olson "the epitome of a bad teacher," and a "white supremacist."
Wrote Turner: "We have to be the ones to protect our children, they are under attack from the SPFT. This same teacher, feels that the teachers should govern the school."
Turner's call for action, posted Wednesday, was a hit with his followers, and it got the attention of many. That included school authorities and district leaders, who said they were aware of the "shut down" threat, and preparing for it. Black Lives Matter St. Paul also says district representatives had agreed to meet with them to discuss Olson some time today.
Last month, Turner and Black Lives Matter St. Paul had similarly threatened to shut down the Red Bull Crashed Ice races if St. Paul cop Jeff Rothecker was not fired; instead, Rothecker resigned, and the protest was canceled.
Olson himself, who commented that he had tried to contact Turner, and was open to speaking with him directly. Turner, for his part, claims he tried to talk to Olson at the school last week, but that Olson had "called the authorities on me like I was an intruder in the building."