St. Paul Teacher Seeks to Hold District, and Students, Accountable for Assault

A 14-year veteran of the public schools, Mr. Aaron Benner, is suing the St. Paul Public School District.

Mr. Benner was assaulted at work by students on several occasions, and witnessed assaults on students. When he sought help from his principal and the district he was told that the offending students would not be disciplined because they were black.

Mr. Benner told a stunned gathering last summer at an American Experiment celebration of school choice featuring California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, about the district policies that failed the students and failed him as a teacher and employee.

Mr. Benner’s rough experience at the St. Paul schools verified what Senior Fellow Kathrine Kersten has reported about that district, but also public schools in general: minority students are not being disciplined for violent behavior, and thus their precious futures are being sacrificed on the altar of political fashion and correctness. But so are their victims.

This did not sit well with Mr. Benner. As he reported in his remarks last summer, his father is a cop, and he was raised to respect the law and teachers. And to expect his employer to do the same.

KARE-11 did a detailed report on the law suit filed last week (better than the Star Tribune’s article that failed to mention that Mr. Benner had been assaulted. That is an odd omission by the Strib.)

Benner’s lawsuit states that he spoke out against the school district’s racial equity policy at a school board meeting in May, 2014. The lawsuit states he was the only African American teacher at Johnson Elementary School at that time.

This is about more than what happened to Mr. Benner (assault, retaliation and loss of income). For Mr. Benner, it is about the message the school is sending to students (and what this is doing to the profession of teaching):

The lawsuit states Benner believed the district’s racial equity policy was not holding African American students accountable for behavior issues as opposed to students of other races, and that policy was causing African American students to act out more. The lawsuit quotes Benner’s statement at the school board meeting as saying, “Dr. King would be very disappointed because here we are 51 years later and the concept of the matter at hand is skin color.”

The lawsuit states Benner faced his first investigation after an incident in September, 2014, when he witnessed a 4th grade boy punch a 4th grade girl in the face, knocking her out cold. According to the lawsuit, the girl was taken to the school nurse, and Benner reported the incident to the principal.

Here is the amazing part:

But when Benner called the student’s mother two days later to check on her condition, the suit claims the mother knew nothing of the incident. The mother called the school, upset she hadn’t been notified about her daughter’s assault, according to the lawsuit. After that phone call, Benner was subjected to an investigation and disciplined, the lawsuit states.

Later that school year three more investigations were launched against Benner, while disorder in his school continued, according to the lawsuit. Benner was punched, kicked and assaulted by students on three occasions later that school year, and little to no disciplinary action was taken by the district, according to the lawsuit. (emphasis added)

At the end of the school year, Benner went on national television to talk about the problems in the Saint Paul Public School District.

At this point, Mr. Benner, saw the handwriting on the chalkboard and decided to leave the district.

Later that month Benner filed a charge with the EEOC of Discrimination and Harassment, claiming the school district discriminated against him based on race and retaliation, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit.

The Saint Paul Dept. of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity sent Benner its finding on that charge in April, 2017, said Benner.

KARE 11 obtained a copy of the City of Saint Paul Human Rights Dept.’s findings, which state: “this Department concludes that there is probable cause for discrimination based on race and retaliation indicating that [Saint Paul Public Schools] violated the Saint Paul Human Rights Ordinance as [Aaron Benner] had alleged.”

Mr. Benner tried to resolve the issue last spring but the district did not even show up.

Benner says the Saint Paul Human Rights Dept. arranged a conciliation meeting between the school district and Benner in April this year to resolve the issue. Benner says he asked for $260,000 compensation for two years’ salary. Benner says school district officials did not show up to the meeting, so Benner went ahead with filing his lawsuit.

These errant St. Paul school district policies have driven enrollment for private and charter schools all over St. Paul. What parents, if they have a choice, would send their children to public schools?

We are happy to report that Cretin-Derham Hall, a private Catholic school, snapped up Mr. Benner as an administrator at its school.