An opportunity for justice

Aaron Benner gets $525,000 settlement from St. Paul school district.

The St. Paul school district has agreed to pay its former teacher Aaron Benner a $525,000 settlement in response to Benner’s federal lawsuit against the district.

Benner, a teacher with an impeccable 20-year career, sued the district for allegedly retaliating against him after he challenged its discipline policies. Thinking Minnesota has covered his case extensively.

At a school board meeting in May 2014, Benner spoke out against the St. Paul Public Schools’ new “racial equity” policy, as he believed it was doing a disservice to students of color by not holding them accountable for disruptive behavior. During the 2014-2015 school year, Benner endured an onslaught of attacks that included four district-led investigations. He claimed the investigations reflected unequal scrutiny and created a hostile work environment, causing him to resign from the school district rather than risk being fired.

Throughout the whole ordeal, the teachers’ union failed to advocate for Benner and actively participated in the harassment. “My union rep tried to have me plea to one of the investigations which made it clear to me that my union was complicit with the district,” Benner said in an interview. “My problem with my union is that they sat back and allowed the St. Paul school district to harass me and did nothing. They took my union dues and did nothing to represent me.”

Benner’s case was set to go to trial in October, as efforts by the school district to get the case dismissed were unsuccessful. And while Benner is glad to put this behind him, he was hoping for a public airing of more facts from his case. “Once I learned the district agreed to the amount I offered, I was a little sad. Not due to the amount, but that a trial would not take place. I really wanted the public to see and hear all of the evidence. My lawyer was well prepared and St. Paul Public Schools knew what they were up against—the truth,” Benner said.

The Center commends Aaron Benner for courageously telling the truth about the tragic impact St. Paul Public Schools’ misguided disciplinary policy has had on students and teachers alike.