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Teacher’s discussion on police violence, unrest angers some parents whose kids felt ‘bad for being a white person’

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What was said in Tina Demary’s son’s Elk River High School classroom made him uncomfortable enough to bring it up to her when he got home.

“He felt like they were inappropriate or made him feel like bad for being a white person,” Tina Demary said.

The comments came from Troy Johnson, an Elk River school equity specialist, who is a Black man. His role is one the district says promotes culturally-competent learning environments, and helps students understand social issues.

Answering a question about looting as a response to police violence, Johnson gave this answer:

In order to get someone’s attention on what’s going on, let’s burn the building down, and then did you see what happened? We got a reaction … We’ve been protesting for years … What else do we need to do?

He said looting is doing a lot for the Black community, and is getting the attention of people in power who can change things.

“I think it would be nice to have somebody more middle ground come in and talk to them, not just like one-sided thing,” Tina Demary said.

Her husband, Jake Demary, wouldn’t go that far.

“It shouldn’t be [talked about in school] unless you’re gonna allow the parents there, too,” Jake Demary said.

There were parents at Monday’s school board meeting that said the comments encouraged and justified violence. Others were glad the students were exposed to a perspective they may not have known before, including parent Michelle Holmes.

“We have to be able to answer the questions that are very difficult when we’re talking about current events,” Holmes said. “He’s an equity specialist, so he has the training to be able to answer the questions.”

Morris Dennis is a recent graduate who has known Johnson for years. He appreciates the diversity he brings to the district.

“It’s important to have teachers who can, you know, offer a different view, different opinions,” Dennis said.

No action was taken at Monday night’s board meeting on this situation. The district says it was investigated and appropriate actions were taken.

A spokesperson also said “ISD 728 does not condone violence or illegal activity at any time, and that we do work to provide safe spaces for students to discuss current events.”

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