Conservatives Rally in Support of Edina School Board Member Under Fire, Citing Infringement of Freedom of Speech Rights
Recently, the Edina, Minnesota school district has been in the news, and not for its hockey prowess. Over the past year, writer Katherine Kersten has published several articles outlining the discrimination felt by conservative Edina, Minnesota school district students and parents following the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Through her investigation, Kersten discovered that not only were conservative points of view being squelched and sometimes punished, but that the attitudes and actions displayed by teachers and staff were a result of social justice training by the Pacific Education Group. That training was encouraged to be injected into all areas of the curriculum, most notably in the 10th grade language arts classrooms. The attitudes also caused the Young Conservatives Club to be disbanded after a controversy involving a school assembly, military veterans and the American Flag. After a legal battle over Freedom of Speech with the district, the student group was reinstated, but the rift between the conservative community members and the school board has remained.
When the news of an upcoming disciplinary session against school board Vice Chair Sarah Patzloff over a Facebook post came out, many in the Edina conservative community were outraged, expressing the view that Patzloff’s First Amendment Rights were being infringed, and that she was targeted because she is one of the few conservative-leaning members on the school board.
On May 8, 2018, hundreds of supporters rallied for Patzloff during a five hour closed-door disciplinary meeting. The Edina residents, parents, friends and concerned citizens seemed to surprise the board members by showing up en-masse to the meeting. Patzloff was facing disciplinary action due to a Facebook post on a private group in February. In the post, Patzloff included a link to a blog post by Edina teacher Jackie Roehl.
In the blog post (here), Roehl extols the virtues of the training she received from PEG – Pacific Education Group – about critical race theory, social justice and how she has incorporated that training into her Language Arts curriculum.
A complaint was filed against Patzloff, and though Patzloff had published the post on a closed Facebook group, the Edina School Board chose to move forward with disciplinary action against her.
The five-hour long meeting began as an open session; Patzloff’s supporters filled the room, chanting “Sarah! Sarah!” and cheering for her as she walked in. Many wore shirts emblazoned with the phrase “We Are Sarah” and banners were also carried showing their support for Patzloff. Shortly after convening the meeting, the board members moved to another room for a closed door session. Patzloff was sequestered alone in another room for several hours, while her supporters, which included her husband and sister waited outside, unable to speak with her or receive information about the proceedings.
At 9pm CDT, janitors attempted to close the building. The A/C was turned off and the doors between the room where many supporters were waiting and the hallway leading to the room where the closed-door session was taking place were locked. The supporters propped open the doors and argued with the janitor, who at one point acted aggressively toward the supporters, brandishing his vacuum before slamming a door to his office in their faces.
At another point, school district members accompanied by school district attorney Trevor Helmers of Rupp, Anderson, Squires & Waldspurger, P.A., came out of the room and asked the people to leave the hallway, threatening to call the police if they did not obey. The people did not comply, but continued their vigil waiting for news of Patzloff’s fate.
During the five hour wait, supporters held a prayer circle and broke out in spontaneous singing of “God Bless America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The board members and Patzloff emerged to cheers from the crowd shortly after midnight. They reconvened the open session portion of the meeting, crowded around a conference table with Patzloff’s supporters filling the room. Patzloff then read a statement:
I would like to express my regret for posting comments on Facebook that were upsetting to some members of our community. It wasn’t my intent to offend anyone. I will continue to strongly advocate for our students, and hope that we can put this matter behind us and focus on our work of the district.
Edina School Board Chair Leny Wallen-Friedman, responded to Patzloff’s statement saying, “No form of disciplinary action will be taken against Ms. Patzloff and the district will consider this matter to be closed.”
The Deplorable Housewives of the Midwest attended the meeting and livestreamed the event. Many of Patzloff’s supporters talked with our reporter about their experiences in the Edina school system, few of which were positive. They also expressed sadness over what they saw as the decline in the education provided by the Edina school district; a district that had once been one of the top Minnesota public schools, but which has fallen in the rankings over the years.
The full livestream can be viewed below.