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Discussions after Lakeville Area School District informs teachers not to have BLM posters up in classrooms

The school district cited one of its policies that asks teachers to maintain "neutrality" when it comes to political campaigns.

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — There is an important discussion happening in the city of Lakeville right now. It began after teachers and staff of the Lakeville School district received a memo saying Black Lives Matter posters are not allowed in their classrooms.

During a socially distanced Lakeville Area Schools Board of Education meeting last Tuesday, concerned parents showed up to share their thoughts about this very topic.

"This was the first time I've ever been to a board meeting," Kiki James-Gillman said.

James-Gillman said she was there as a parent of two elementary school kids in the Lakeville School district. She had heard of a memo that had gone around, not allowing teachers to display Black Lives Matter posters.

"Another parent sent me a message saying that she had received a kind of tsunami of emails from teachers who had been -- also received a letter from the district advising them and prohibiting them from putting up any signs that said Black Lives Matter in the classroom," she said.

In the memo, the school district highlighted Policy 535, saying that the goal for the district is to "maintain neutrality as to all political campaigns and issues." 

More specifically, "employees, while acting in the capacity of a school district employee, shall refrain from any conduct that is intended to be or that reasonably could be perceived as endorsing or opposing specific political issues or political candidates."

"Black Lives Matter it is not a political statement," James-Gillman said. "You can argue there's a political group-- that's fine. But those three words on their own are legitimate and need to be validated at this time and forever. Because for a long time, it has not been the case. Black lives in America have not mattered. They never really have. It's time to speak up and have allies."

The memo also read that the district bans other slogans, like 'All Lives Matter,' 'Blue Lives Matter' or 'Keep America Great.'

In the same Tuesday meeting-- Lakeville school district superintendent Michael Baumann said he's not trying to end any conversation.

"There's no intent to shut it out or stop the conversation," he said in a recorded school board meeting. "But there is an intent to address a request by teachers and there is-- a  political component to this that stops people from listening. I don't want to stop people from listening. So I want to be careful about that."

In a follow-up statement after that Tuesday meeting, Baumann added,

"There is also much work to be done to clearly demonstrate and affirm anti-racism in this district...as the Superintendent of this district, I lead this effort. Black lives do matter."

James-Gillman, who said she's lived in Lakeville with her kids for three years now said what she's seeing in the district is reflective of what is happening in the community as well.

"I think what's [been] happening for a long time, issues of race have never been discussed," she said. "It's causing people to be a bit uncomfortable so the needle needs to move, it needs to shift. You don't get change unless you're uncomfortable."

You can read the full statement from LASD here:

"Lakeville Area Schools students, staff and families,

As school resumed in the last two weeks, our staff have worked diligently to welcome students and families

back to school recognizing the uncertainty and distress many may be feeling resulting from recent months,

particularly with respect to issues related to racism in our communities across the nation. To this end,

educators are deeply committed to creating environments where students feel and experience strong

connections to their school community, and will continue to affirm the value that Black lives matter.

Our intention is to make every student, particularly those who have experienced racism and oppression, feel

safe and welcome in each and every classroom and school that they are in. As educators, we work towards

this goal every day.

On Tuesday, September 22, I shared a memo with our Educators. My purpose in sharing that memo was to

provide clarity and direction on the specific requests of educators to display Black Lives Matter posters in their

classrooms. My interpretation of School Board Policy 535 that I articulated in the memo was specific to staff

putting up these posters. I acknowledge the impact for many was hurtful.

As I stated at the school board meeting on Tuesday, September 22, Lakeville Area Schools stands against

racism and bigotry. The conversations in the school buildings are supported and are an important part of this

work. There is also much work to be done to clearly demonstrate and affirm anti-racism in this District to

uphold those beliefs to a high standard. As the Superintendent of this district, I lead this effort. Black lives do

matter.

This District will offer opportunities for our students, staff and families to provide feedback and dialogue with

our Administration through listening sessions. We will vigorously and vigilantly pursue anti-racism practices,

provide and support educators in the classroom with the training and means to support student learning

around race and race issues in the community, state, and nation. More information about these efforts will be

shared in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to share your comments and concerns with me

and our school board .

Sincerely,

Michael Baumann, Superintendent

michael.baumann@isd194.org"