Minnesota teachers file lawsuit over alleged ‘gag order’

According to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune, teachers in one central Minnesota school district say the communications policy that local officials have adopted amounts to a “gag order.”

The Tribune reported last week that educators have filed a lawsuit in Sherburne County District Court over a plan adopted by the Becker school board this past May.

It prohibits “divisive concepts” from being introduced into district schools, something detractors say is a violation of the free speech provisions found in Minnesota’s state constitution.

What’s more, they complain that the new policy also bars educators from making anything other than “positive” comments about the district to anyone who is not employed by it.

Overly broad?

Jason Baune and Beny Pany serve as co-presidents of the Becker Education Association, and they allege in their lawsuit that the policy is overly broad.

The pair say it would prevent teachers from complying state requirements for reporting child abuse and stop them from publicly discussing the impact of budgetary cuts.

Denise Specht is president of the state teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, and said in a news release that Baune and Pany are unable to publicly comment on the lawsuit as it could result in disciplinary action.

“Educators should be able to speak the truth about what’s happening in their schools to parents and the rest of their communities,” the Tribune quoted Specht as saying. “This gag order, and policies like it, are unacceptable. Our union will resist them everywhere.”

Confrontation

The paper noted that tensions have been running high in the school district, with an estimated 100 left-wing protesters noisily disrupting a school board meeting in March.

The demonstrators arrived to confront members of the Child Protection League, a conservative organization that describes itself as being “committed to promoting the welfare of children and protecting them from exploitation, indoctrination, and violence.

Board Chair Mark Swanson released a statement ahead of the meeting which read, “As a school board, we recognize that we are learners, just like the students we serve. Therefore, a critical part of our jobs as board members is to listen and engage.”

“We see that it is essential for us as individual board members and as a collective to engage with a variety of perspectives and voices to ensure a complete picture.”

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