A threatened shutdown of Como Park High School by the group Black Lives Matter St. Paul has been averted, for now.
Rashad Turner, the group’s organizer, “has chosen to discontinue any immediate protests planned” at the school, St. Paul Superintendent Valeria Silva announced in a written statement Monday.
Her remarks came after what she described as a “productive and positive conversation” with Turner and other Black Lives Matter representatives. The two sides met after the group raised objections to a Como Park teacher’s postings on social media.
Turner said Monday that the group never set a protest date — so there was nothing to cancel. But he struck a conciliatory tone.
“We will move forward from our conversation with Silva and board members in the spirit of progress,” he said. “We will do what we need to do to make sure all students in [St. Paul Public Schools] are valued and educated inside the walls of SPPS.”
Last week, Black Lives Matter threatened a “shut down action” at the school if the district did not fire special-education teacher Theo Olson for Facebook posts that the group claims portrayed students as drug dealers and gang bangers.
Silva’s three-paragraph statement made no reference to Olson, who was working on Monday.
In his Facebook posts, Olson expressed frustration over the district not providing enough support to deal with “kids who won’t quit gaming, setting up fights, selling drugs, whoring trains or cyber bullying.” The term “whore train” is a reference to “inappropriate sexual activity,” Olson wrote on Turner’s Facebook page.
Olson did not identify students by race in his posts. But Turner described him as “a white supremacist teacher.”
Asked Monday if he were concerned about Olson still being on the job, Turner replied: “We will have a press conference sometime this week. Don’t worry.”
Olson has declined requests for comment about his Facebook posts. Earlier, however, he wrote on Turner’s page that he followed Black Lives Matter on social media and that he had marched with Turner at a protest on University Avenue.
Turner, a Highland Park High graduate, has criticized the district for suspending a disproportionate percentage of black students. A 2015 analysis showed that St. Paul’s black students were nearly 14 times more likely to be suspended than their Asian-American counterparts.
Silva and members of her cabinet also have voiced concerns over district suspension rates. Several teachers, however, including two of Olson’s colleagues at Como Park, have spoken out in recent years about a perceived lack of consequences for students who misbehave.
In Monday’s statement, Silva said she looked forward to further discussions with Black Lives Matter, adding: “It is clear we share a common vision of high expectations and achievement for all students, and ongoing commitment to racial equity.”