Aaron Benner, a black teacher from St. Paul, Minnesota, won a large settlement with the St. Paul School District last week over retaliation he faced for speaking out against the district’s race-based student discipline policies.
The St. Paul School Board approved a $525,000 payout last Tuesday to settle a federal lawsuit Brenner filed in 2017 alleging the district forced him out of his teaching position with numerous bogus personnel investigations in the 2014-15 school year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Benner argued the investigations came in retaliation for complaints to the school board about race-based student discipline policies implemented by then Superintendent Valeria Silva and promoted by President Obama. The discipline policies aimed to reduce suspensions of black students by lowering the expectations for behavior and increasing the threshold for suspensions, something Benner repeatedly, publicly argued was against the best interests of black students.
The “restorative justice” approach to student discipline was accompanied by “white privilege” teacher training sessions that cost the district taxpayers more than $3 million. Those sessions focused on the “white privilege” theory that the public education system is hopelessly stacked against black students, who shouldn’t be held accountable for poor academics or bad behavior.
In St. Paul and hundreds of schools across the country, the “white privilege” training sessions were conducted by Pacific Educational Group, also known as PEG.
“PEG was hired by SPPS in 2010 to help close the achievement gap. PEG makes no secret that its prescription for closing the gap is based on the Critical Race Theory. This theory argues that racism is so ingrained in the American way of life – its economy, schools, and government – that things must be made unequal in order to compensate for that racism,” Benner wrote in a 2015 editorial for the Press.
“Peg pushes the idea that black students are victims of white school policies that make it difficult or impossible for them to learn,” Benner wrote. “So, when a black student is disruptive, PEG, as I see it, stresses that it’s not their fault.”
Benner refused to accept that black students are less capable than their white classmates and left the school district in 2015. Benner taught at a local charter school and was later hired for a administration position at the St. Paul private school Cretin-Derham Hall, according to the Star Tribune.
After years of complaints from parents, teachers, administrators and others about violent and disruptive students running rampant with impunity, St. Paul school leaders eventually got rid of Silva and scrapped the failed student discipline policies.
Last week, the school board settled up with Benner, though the district denied any wrongdoing.
“This agreement enables the district to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of protracted legal proceedings regarding its previous policies, practices and expectations,” board members wrote in a prepared statement.
The district contends taxpayers are responsible for $50,000 of the settlement, while its insurer will cover $475,000.
Benner told the Star Tribune he credits God for the favorable outcome.
“I thank God for all the blessings in my life,” he wrote in an email to the news site. “I turned 50 this year, got married in July and now (there is) this settlement.”