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Star Tribune writers tracking education issues

Mpls. Federation of Teachers encourages public school support, safety before Trump's inauguration

Top: The rally at Green Central Thursday morning, in front of a banner that read "We support our school." Bottom: A mural on the side of Green Central school.

Teachers, students and community members rallied Thursday morning outside Richard R. Green Central Park Community School with a message: The building will be a safe place for students as President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Similar events are rippling across almost 200 cities Thursday, part of a national day of action as people "inclusively stand up for all students" the day before Trump's inauguration, according to a release from the National Education Association.

The confirmation hearing for Trump's education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos held earlier this week put her views on school choice center stage. DeVos has supported charter schools and school vouchers, which use public dollars for private school tuition.

"Parents, educators, and students gathered in front of their schools to affirm that if Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos follow through with their destructive anti-student ideology, we will continue to stand for students and work to strengthen our public schools," the group said in a release Thursday.

Walk-ins as part of the national day of action took place at schools throughout the Minneapolis Public Schools district, including Bethune Community School, Lake Harriet Upper and Washburn High, according to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers' Facebook page

Teachers nationwide have observed post-Election Day increases in harassing and bullying in schools, a release from statewide teachers union Education Minnesota said.

Other organized events are rolling out at schools including St. Paul Public Schools and Osseo Area Schools, said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota.

At Green Central, more than 50 people gathered around the school doors in front of a yellow banner reading, "We support our school." Speakers including Specht and CAIR-MN executive director Jaylani Hussein addressed the crowd. 

Some initiated call-and-response chants.

"When public schools are under attack, what do we do?" Neighborhoods Organizing for Change education organizer Amber Jones said to the crowd outside Green Central. 

"Stand up, fight back," they chanted back.

After the 7:30 a.m. rally, educators and students walked into the school for the start of the day. Union organizers attended the Green Central rally, including Minneapolis Federation of Teachers presidents Michelle Wiese of the teachers chapter and Shaun Laden of the Educational Support Professionals chapter.

Specht said that "politics have definitely changed."

"We're not going to stop preparing students for successful lives because of who's in the White House, who's in our legislature," Specht said. "We're going to continue to do our work."

Mpls. Patrick Henry High event aims to empower black men

Patrick Henry High School's annual 100 Black Men strong event kicked off Friday at the school as students circled up at tables with more than 100 black professionals to talk about careers, academics and life.

The event theme, "How to survive as a black man in America," aimed to "empower, engage, encourage and equip students with the tools to thrive," according to a release from the school district. 

Featured speaker U.S. Department of Educarion General Counsel and Deputy Secretary James Cole, Jr., was slated to speak at the event about his time working for President Obama's administration and being his family's first member to gain a college degree. 

Patrick Henry Principal Yusuf Abdullah said the annual event has been running for a few years, and gives students a chance to see black men in a variety of professional fields.

Kids need to look at more of that, he said.

"They have to see themselves in those people," he said.