Supporters rally for Minnetonka teacher while some parents raise concerns after LGBTQ+ activist lesson

Jessica Miles
Updated: March 04, 2021 10:09 PM
Created: March 04, 2021 07:11 PM

During morning announcements at Minnetonka Middle School East on Feb. 19, teacher Colin Perucco introduced Marsha P. Johnson as "Perucco's Person of the Day."

"Johnson's work paved the way for a louder and more prominent voice in the injustices done in and to the gay community," Perucco said.

Johnson was a transgender activist, and Perucco said the recommendation came from a student.

"Let's listen to these words and remember that we are all going through this life together, we are all human beings experiencing the world in very different, but also very similar ways," he shared.

Video was taken of that presentation and sent to The Daily Wire, a conservative news website. Their report referenced Johnson as "a transgender activist and drag queen who worked as a sex worker."

Parents took to social media and the issue has grown immensely.

Lena Pak is a Minnetonka High School student and student leader for Minnetonka Coalition for Equitable Education (MCEE).

"We strongly believe that what Mr. Perucco did was not only not wrong but it was a very good, positive thing that he was doing for his students, and this situation sent the message to other teachers and students that teachers who are teaching equitable education and highlighting diverse people will be reprimanded for that," Pak said.

MCEE has issued a list of demands to the school board including wanting a letter of no-fault for Perucco to protect his future job prospects and bias training for the school board.

Minnetonka Middle School East Principal Pete Dymit sent a letter to families stating he supports his teacher, but added, "It is incumbent upon me as principal to determine the age-appropriateness of content, the balance of content (including political perspectives), and the impact of content for such a show."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with parents who have concerns with the selection of Johnson. They said they don't want Perucco or the principal of the middle school to lose their jobs over this, but would like more oversight and balance into who is selected as 'person of the day,' as per school district policy 607, which they said addresses teaching on controversial topics.

One parent wrote, "I would ask parents who are so vocally supporting Mr. Perucco (which, of course, is their right) to examine whether they would equally support a teacher who was pursuing a far more conservative education on social justice topics?"

The Minnetonka School District released a statement indicating "leadership never considered firing Mr. Perucco." Perucco released a statement about the situation.

The school board met Thursday night on the matter.

The following is a statement provided by the board following the meeting:

This past week, the School Board received several emails from parents, students and community members, many referencing School Board Goal #2: Excellence and Belonging- Diversity. Equity. Inclusion., and most of which asked the Board to intervene and address an issue involving the middle school morning show.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our deep appreciation to everyone who reached out to us, and, in particular, to the students who did so.

Let me say emphatically that the School Board is unwavering in its support of our teachers, staff and school leaders and the important work they are all doing. We are also unwavering in our pursuit of excellence for all. We believe the work of Goal #2 is critical. It may take time and energy to accomplish all aspects of it in a meaningful way, but we are pleased with the District's progress thus far, this year.

Regarding the recent issue involving the middle school morning show, it is not our place to manage day-to-day operations, issues or situations or to manage personnel matters. That is the role of District administrators, including our principals. They have our full support in running their buildings without interference from the Board. The role of the Board is to set the District goals for the year and to oversee the Superintendent in accomplishing those goals and in managing the operations of the District.

That does not mean we do not care or that we do not want to hear from you. Again, thank you for connecting.

As we look ahead, I think we all know there will be times where we—as a community—do not all agree. There will be times when things do not move as quickly as some in our community may want things to move—or when things move faster than some in our community want things to happen.

We are evolving together as a school community, and as we do this, let's do our best to honor everyone's journey, to move forward together, to assume positive intent, to open our minds to others' perspectives … to listen and learn from each other. The Board is committed to this, and we hope that each person hearing this will commit to it, as well. Together, we are Minnetonka.

Thank you.

(Chris Vitale, School Board Chair)


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