Former St. Paul teacher talks publicly about $525,000 legal settlement with SPPS

Updated: September 22, 2019 10:22 PM

Aaron Benner talked publicly for the first time since he settled his retaliation lawsuit against St. Paul Public Schools, on Sept. 17 on Sunday.

Benner told KSTP he wants his message to be heard about treating minority students, especially African-American males, differently than other students regarding disciplinary and curriculum standards.

St. Paul Public Schools settles lawsuit for $525,000 with former teacher

"My message is we are crippling black students with racial equity plans that do a disservice," said Benner.  "We should not be telling minority students they will not be disciplined the same as other students when their behavior is unacceptable and sometimes even violent."

Benner, in 2014, openly criticized SPPS plans to implement a new racial equity plan that, in part, aimed to reduce school suspensions among African-American students.

"It is wrong to hold them to a different disciplinary standard based on their race," said Benner.  "It sends the wrong message, does not hold them accountable and will not make them employable in the future because they will not be prepared for the real world."

Benner said teachers were also instructed to "make sure no particular race of student achieved more, or less than students of other races."

"The district, through that curriculum and performance model, were essentially told racial equity means equal results," said Benner.  "And, in my opinion, racial equity is not equal results, but it is about fairness and everyone having the same, fair chance to succeed.

SPPS declined to comment, or give KSTP an on-camera interview, but did issue statement about the settlement with Benner.

"We are pleased this matter is resolved. This agreement enables the District to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of protracted legal proceedings regarding its previous policies, practices and expectations. It allows the District to move forward and fully devote its energy and resources toward our strategic plan, SPPS Achieves.

"(This year) marks the first full year of implementing SPPS Achieves. This plan is rooted in our mission: to inspire students to think critically, pursue their dreams and change the world. It also reflects the District's guiding values of achievement, communication, continuous improvement, collaboration, accountability, and inclusiveness. That is why as the new school year begins, we are continuing our efforts to prioritize District resources to help make an impact on student learning and supporting our students, families and staff to contribute to the improvement of long-term student outcomes." 

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Jay Kolls

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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