Dialogue matters to strong activism

Daily Editorial Board

Earlier this week, Black Lives Matter St. Paul called off a planned protest in Como Park Senior High School. The demonstration was originally organized to respond to comments made by one of the school’s teachers, Theo Olson, who had argued on Facebook that the school was not providing teachers with enough resources to deal with misconduct and that it was “enabling” them to continue misbehavior.
 
 
After meeting with Black Lives Matter, Superintendent Valeria Silva said that although the district has taken positive steps to reduce the racial disparities in its educational system, more must be done. 
 
 
We applaud the efforts of Silva and Black Lives Matter to engage in a meaningful, policy-oriented discussion instead of shutting down a high school, which would have been counterproductive for all parties involved. We also urge the state to do more to address the racial disparities that exist within our K-12 education system. 
 
 
One main problem is that St. Paul public schools suspend or expel a disproportionate number of African-American students. Other districts are currently discussing the idea to rehabilitate student misbehavior with the aid of more counselors and support staff who better represent local communities, and we believe such solutions could prove effective. 
 
 
While Olson’s comments are oversimplified and unfair, they highlight an important systemic problem in our K-12 education system that Minnesota needs to address. While shutting down a school would certainly not yield productive outcomes, this week’s events illustrate that communities can work together to implement meaningful reforms that address racial disparities.