A black elementary school teacher who fought against the St. Paul School District in Minnesota for their practice of letting minority students get away with bad behavior won $525,000 in a settlement Tuesday night.
Aaron Benner filed a federal lawsuit in 2015, claiming that the school district basically made him quit his job because they investigated him four times in the 2014-15 school year despite the fact he had never been disciplined before. Benner had already been teaching for 19 years by 2014, when he and four other teachers told a board meeting that the district was not reprimanding students for their bad behavior. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, “Benner, who is black, accused the district of failing black students by not holding them accountable for disruptive behavior. The district was being led then by Valeria Silva, who sought to reduce racial disparities in student discipline.”
After the settlement, Benner stated, “I thank God for all the blessings in my life. I turned 50 this year, got married in July and now (there is) this settlement.” The district did not admit they had done anything wrong, but wanted to avoid the costs of a lawsuit, asserting, “This agreement enables the district to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of protracted legal proceedings regarding its previous policies, practices and expectations.”
Benner won a recent court ruling allowing him to seek punitive damages when the case went to trial.
In 2015, Benner appeared on Fox News’ “The O-Reilly Factor,” where host Bill O’Reilly stated:
For the past five years the St. Paul, Minnesota school district has spent nearly $3 million on “white privilege” training done by a far-left outfit called the Pacific Educational Group. That training tells teachers to overlook transgressions by minority students; to treat them differently than white students.
O’Reilly turned to Benner, saying, “You’re teaching at an elementary school and you’re seeing behavior, not in your class, but in the cafeteria, in the school grounds, that’s getting worse, correct?”
Benner: “That is correct.”
You would see that same student who came in your class and disrupted you still in the school. And that’s mind-boggling. You’re like, “Where are the consequences? What’s going on around here?” That was my concern … In December of 2011, when I was working at another school, the behaviors were so out of control that I addressed the St. Paul school board by myself and I told them, “It breaks my heart to see children who look like me behave so poorly in our schools and nothing’s being done … I had an altercation with a student where the student actually punched me; I restrained the student, brought the student into the principal; I didn’t want the student to be incarcerated; however, I wanted some consequences. That student was returned back to my class, Mr. O’Reilly, within ten minutes. That’s when I knew there was a problem in St. Paul public schools. I knew that there must have been some sort of directive to keep these kids in school, in the classroom, no matter what.