Lesson Learned! School Board Stands Up to Near-Mob of Protesters

Another school board meeting, another angry near-mob of protesters. But judging from the outcome, members of the Richfield School Board has learned a lesson from the intimidation tactics employed recently against the Minneapolis Park Board and Minneapolis School Board.Rehire Signs

Dozens of members of the so-called Social Justice Education Movement shouted down board members, surrounding the board as members considered firing an employee for work-related issues.

The crowd claimed Jessi Martinez was sacked for seeking to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt last winter in the Star Tribune account of the showdown.

More than 70 protesters from the Social Justice Education Movement yelled “shame on you” at Richfield school board members Monday after they voted to fire a bilingual outreach worker at the district’s STEM elementary school.

…Protesters held up bright yellow signs with “Rehire Jessi now” and booed at board members in the meeting. Several parents and students spoke out in support of Martinez, who sat in the front row at the meeting and wiped away tears. She had worked for the district for about five years.

Martinez BLM shirtRichfield Superintendent of Schools Steven Unowsky acknowledged the district has work to do on equity issues, but refused to take the employee’s termination off the table.

“No members of staff have been disciplined formally or informally for advocacy related to Black Lives Matter, social justice or any other advocacy of our students or families,” Richfield Superintendent Steven Unowsky said in a statement.

According to Unowsky, a small group of staff from Richfield STEM met with administrators to ask if they could wear Black Lives Matter shirts to work to support their students around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. District officials discouraged the idea because some employees were excluded from the invitation to join in.

The unruly group circled the school board twice during the proceedings in a futile attempt to influence the outcome.

Protesters became so disruptive during Monday night’s meeting following the board’s vote that the board moved to recess twice. At one point, protesters circled the board members at the dais, yelling at them. The board members retreated behind closed doors, and the protesters began filtering out, chanting, “We’ll be back.”

 With protesters out, the board returned and formally ended the meeting. Board members were escorted to the cars by two police officers.

“Having asked many questions and spoken with multiple people to understand what has taken place, I do believe the recommendation before us is justified even as I understand and truly hear how deeply others disagree,” Crystal Brakke, school board vice chairwoman, said on Facebook.

It took courage for school board members to stand up to a hostile crowd standing around them. Here’s hoping other school boards and government officials follow their example.