The Sarah Patzloff Complaint: An Attempt To Silence?

Censored_Speech.jpegMany Edina residents are aware of the recent Edina School Board action involving the Edina School Board Vice Chair Sarah Patzloff. Most of the details of this kerfuffle were withheld from the public and continue to be withheld.

Our understanding of the matter has come from media reports. At its root is an essay written by Edina High School (EHS) 10th grade English teacher Jackie Roehl about the Pre AP English class taught at EHS. Finding the content and implications concerning, Patzloff posted excerpts of the essay in a private Facebook group. She shared her personal feelings, describing Roehl's philosophy as “frightening”.

When it comes to teaching AP English classes, Roehl's essay promotes the liberal and divisive views promoted by the Pacific Education Group (PEG) and the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NVA). Roehl's essay suggests that AP English class should center on instructing students on social justice, identity politics, critical race theory and to eradicate “White Privilege”. Roehl explained in her essay that the AP English classes should “Help explore issues of race and racism because their own white racial identity is invisible to many and they reduce racism to something that happened in the past to other people”. As recent events have demonstrated, many Edina parents don't see that as the purpose of AP English class.

An unknown individual filed a complaint about Patzloff's Facebook comment (that certain portions of Roehl’s essay were “frightening”). The Edina School Board started a disciplinary review of Sarah based on that complaint. The Board hired an outside law firm to investigate the complaint. Patzloff retained a lawyer to defend herself. The incident culminated in a board meeting May 8th, 2018 at 7:00 pm. Over 150 concerned Edina residents showed up in support of Patzloff.

The board had a brief public meeting and went into a closed session. There were 3 parts to the closed session:
1) Report from the outside attorney hired by the Board with Sarah present.
2) Sarah's threatened lawsuit of the district, discussed by the Board with Sarah sequestered in a separate room.
3) Board discussion with Sarah again present, leading to a decision on the disciplinary matter.

Altogether, the closed session lasted over 5 hours, concluding after midnight. At least 50 of the concerned Edina residents were still present. Many had grown upset about how Patzloff was being treated. Little was being communicated by representatives of the School Board to the waiting residents. In fact, a representative of the School Board threatened to call police if the residents did not vacate the hallway outside the closed session. When the board finally emerged and reconvened in open session, the atmosphere was tense. At least one of Patzloff’s supporters made a threatening remark toward the School Board members. While emotions were clearly strained, such comments were inappropriate.

In the final open session, Patzloff looked exhausted and emotionally drained. She read a statement stating her regret if her Facebook posting had been hurtful to anyone. Her interests have always been focused on the students at EHS. She did not want her actions to reflect badly on the school or the students. Following her statement, the board chairman Leny Wallen Friedman declared the matter closed. No disciplinary action would be taken against Patzloff.

Unfortunately, nothing more will be released about the complaint, the investigation, or the deliberations. Wallen Friedman put out a statement “The Board was required by its policies and practices to fully investigate this matter, and that independent investigation has now concluded. No further information may be shared regarding the allegations or the details of the investigation, as such data is classified as private personnel data on Ms. Patzloff.” A cloak of confidentiality has been drawn around this affair, leaving only room for speculation.

We call on the Edina School Board to address the following:

• How much did this process cost, from initial complaint to final statements? Couldn’t (and shouldn’t) this issue have been handled at a much lower level, without the expense of an outside investigating attorney and several hours of staff overtime? Could an impartial arbiter be considered where personal opinions are concerned versus more serious accusations?
• If a parent filed a formal complaint about the classroom statements of a teacher, would the board go to the same lengths and expenditures to resolve it?
• Going to the root of this issue, many parents in Edina clearly have a concern with what appears to be a manipulation of the curriculum. How does the School Board feel about these concerns?