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BECKER, Minnesota. Aug. 1, 2022 – Educators in Becker pledged to stay vigilant for policies that would hinder their ability to provide the education their students deserve after the local school board tabled a policy Monday night to ban so-called “divisive” concepts from district schools.
The proposed ban on “inherently divisive” concepts was contained in board policy 471. The policy would restrict students’ freedom to learn complete lessons in American history, including the role of racism. It would also prevent teachers from presenting authors with new viewpoints, discussing current events and providing age-appropriate lessons about human biology.
Ben Pany, co-president of the Becker Education Association and district parent, spoke against the policy Monday night on behalf of more than 200 teachers in the local.
“I read the policy and was taken aback on how far this policy’s reach would be,” Pany said. “It seems unconstitutional, unpatriotic and runs counter to our district vision of ‘Preparing self-directed learners to thrive in a changing global community.’”
The board had previously passed a communications policy that prohibits teachers from communicating with the public – unless they were praising Becker schools. The broad policy includes communications with parents, the news media and even elected officials during public meetings.
The Becker Education Association is a local of Education Minnesota, the statewide union of educators. Education Minnesota sent Becker Schools a letter warning each of the policies were violations of the First Amendment.
“The District can, and must, do better,” said the letter dated July 19. “Unless these policies are revised to bring them in line with the most straightforward precepts of state and federal law, the union will explore all legal options to ensure that they are not limited in their statutory and constitutional rights.”
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, who attended the meeting Monday, said the public has a right to hear the truth about what’s happening in its public schools from the teachers and other staff who work there.
“Schools are too important for the community to only receive a whitewashed version of what’s going on,” she said. “That’s what’s going to happen if this communications policy stays in place, limiting what educators can say, and who they can say it to.”
As for the tabled policy censoring divisive ideas and facts in the schools, Specht said the union would use its resources to protect the freedom of Minnesota students to feel safe in their own schools and learn the complete story of America, both the good and bad.
“Most Minnesotans want our students to receive the support and lessons they will need to be engaged and informed and contribute to their communities” Specht said. “Unfortunately, the big money think tanks have created a national disinformation campaign around what’s taught about race and gender in schools. So now instead of talking about how to raise the money to fix the educator shortage, reduce class sizes and provide all students with a great education, we’re fighting gag orders and bans on ideas and facts because they don’t fit the political narrative of certain leaders. We will be watching carefully as the school board reconsiders this policy.”
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.