ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A St. Paul teacher is suspended over Facebook posts, but there are a lot of questions surrounding the situation. Even though the posts don't mention race specially, Black Lives Matter-St. Paul interpreted it that way because of the students he teaches.
"Anyone care to explain to me the school to prison pipeline my colleagues and I have somehow created, or perpetuated, or not done enough to interrupt?" part of his Facebook post read.
The Facebook comments by Como Park High School teacher Theo Olson now has some people calling him a racist. After being suspended Wednesday for what he typed, Olson wouldn't speak to Fox 9 out of fear of losing the job he's had for 16 years.
But his wife says the post was not meant to be critical of the special education students he instructs, but critical of the union contract and the St. Paul Public Schools district.
Suspension raises questions on free speech
“It's sort of 'in the eye of the beholder' if it's an instance where you can read between the lines or not,” attorney Steve Aggergaard said.
Aggergaard has been watching the situation unfold while the district deals with what appears to be ongoing problems with student-teacher assaults. While Olson's wife says he hasn't been involved in any of those problems, Aggergaard says due to his post, free speech issues will likely need to be worked out.
“The issue of what can you say about work is very much developing under the law as we speak,” Aggergaard said. “Private employers have greater ability to manage/prohibit posts online about employment, and to a certain degree public employers do as well.”
Olson marched with Black Lives Matter
Olson's wife says her husband is not racist, is very liberal, and has marched with Black Lives Matter in the past, even reaching out to talk about all of this. Still, Black Lives Matter wants him fired.
The district says they cannot comment on personnel matters other than to confirm Olson is on paid administration leave. Fox 9 also reached out to the teachers union, but calls were not returned.
Full Facebook posts from Olson that are under scrutiny:
“Anyone care to explain to me the school-to-prison pipeline my colleagues and I have somehow created, or perpetuated, or not done enough to interrupt? Because if you can’t prove it, and campaigns you’ve waged to deconstruct adult authority in my building by enabling student misconduct, you seriously owe us real teachers an apology. Actually, an apology won’t cut it.”
“Phones and iPad devices, used for social media and gaming. There have always been rules for ‘devices,’ and defined levels of misconduct. Since we now have no backup, no functional location to send kids who won’t quit gaming, setting up fights, selling drugs, whoring trains, or cyber bullying, we’re screwed, just design our own classroom rules. Hopefully tomorrow’s settlement will begin to fix this.”