Edina teachers and school board members say they are receiving threats in the wake of growing tensions with some community activists.
In front of a packed school board meeting with teachers Monday night, Chairman Leny Wallen-Friedman said threats made against teachers last fall included one note to a teacher that read: “You really need to do society a favor and kill yourself.”
Another profanity-laced e-mail, he said, stated: “I will do what it takes to get you fired.”
Wallen-Friedman apologized to the crowd of teachers at Monday’s board meeting, adding that they don’t deserve to be threatened.
“When our teachers were threatened last fall, the board was remiss in failing to speak out against these threats,” he said to them. “Tonight, I apologize to our teachers for failing to make a public stand for them last fall when they were threatened. I also reaffirm my support for them and the work they do.”
An ideological divide has intensified this year in the west metro suburb. In November, an article in a magazine produced by the Center of the American Experiment was sent to Edina homes about the district’s “All for All” equity plan that teaches racial equity, calling it an effort to “indoctrinate students in left-wing political orthodoxies” and saying it has threatened the district’s quality of education.
In March, members of Edina High School’s Young Conservatives Club settled a lawsuit after claiming the district had wrongfully revoked its school-sponsored status. And earlier this month, the school board’s vice chairwoman Sarah Patzloff came under fire for a social media post criticizing a teacher’s blog about teaching students about racial and social justice issues.
Some residents rallied around Patzloff before the meeting, where the school board declined to take action against her.
Since that May 8 meeting, school board members also have gotten threats, Wallen-Friedman said Monday.
The teachers’ union proposed Monday that the school board pass a resolution reaffirming its commitment to the district’s “All for All” plan, which was adopted in 2013 and approved by the school board.
It stated a goal of closing students’ achievement gaps based on race and income. In 2014, the plan was updated to include a statement on racial equity and cultural competence. Now, the teachers union says, teachers who are just following that plan and district curriculum are under attack.
“Teaching is hard enough as it is, and no educator should be attacked for doing their job,” Education Minnesota/Edina President Tom Connell said.
Wallen-Friedman said the board will discuss the resolution at a future meeting.
Some parents have also voiced concern about teachers’ social media posts advocating social justice or political views. Connell said in an interview that the district has a social media policy, but “our teachers still have First Amendment rights in their free time. As long as they aren’t doing that as an Edina Public School teacher, it’s OK.” He added that public discourse needs to return to being civil in the community.
“We feel strongly that it is time for all of us to find a way forward,” Connell said at Monday’s meeting. “This past year has been intense, emotional, ugly, and at times profoundly disillusioning for many of us.”