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Journal minnesota school boards association
journal    minnesota school boards association
                  September–October 2021                          VOL. 74 ISSUE 2

                                    Student Speech 2021: Students (Still) Say the Darndest Things
                    MINNESOTA       Dealing with Racial Incidents in Schools
                    SCHOOL BOARDS
                    ASSOCIATION     Strategic Planning: Putting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Where School Boards Learn to Lead
                                    Goals Into Action
Journal minnesota school boards association
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4    SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                                                                   MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
Journal minnesota school boards association
 President: Michael Domin, Crosby-Ironton
 Past President: Deborah Pauly, Jordan
 District 1: Nikki Gieseke, Owatonna                                                     MINNESOTA
 District 2: Linda Leiding,                                                              SCHOOL BOARDS
             Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial                                              ASSOCIATION
 District 3: Jeanna Lilleberg, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City           Where School Boards Learn to Lead
 District 4: Cheryl Polzin, Wayzata

                                                                TABLE OF CONTENTS
 District 5: Suzy Guthmueller, Centennial
 District 6: Michelle Yener, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale
 District 7: Joel Albright, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan
 District 8: Zuki Ellis, St. Paul
 District 9: Julie Domogalla, East Central
 District 10: Jon Karger, Pelican Rapids
 District 11: John Berklich, Hibbing
 District 12: Jim DeVries, Mahnomen
 District 13: Kristi Peterson, Shakopee                         10 | STUDENT SPEECH 2021:
 Kirk Schneidawind:
                                                                     STUDENTS (STILL) SAY THE
 Executive Director
 Gary Lee:
                                                                     DARNDEST THINGS
 Deputy Executive Director                                           Part Two: Off-Campus Speech
 Kelly Martell:                                                      Christian Shafer, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A.
 Executive Assistant
 Greg Abbott:
 Director of Communications and Marketing                       16 | DEALING WITH RACIAL
 Denise Dittrich:
 Director of Government Relations                                    INCIDENTS IN SCHOOLS
 Barb Dorn:
 Director of Leadership Development and Executive Search
                                                                     Administrators need to prepare,
 Jennifer Ebert:                                                     combat racism, and teach
 Administrative Assistant to Government Relations/Finance
 and Meeting Coordinator/MSBAIT                                      Derek Francis, Minneapolis Public Schools
 Jackie Fahey:
 Administrative Assistant to Board Development
 Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor:                                         18 | STRATEGIC PLANNING:
 Director of Management Services
 Gail Gilman:
                                                                     PUTTING DIVERSITY, EQUITY,
 Director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership
 Tiffany Gustin:
                                                                     AND INCLUSION GOALS INTO
 Associate Director of Management Services                           ACTION
 Shelby Herrera:
 Administrative Assistant to Strategic Governance
                                                                     “Education equity is the foundation
 Donn Jenson:                                                        to everything we do.”
 Director of Technology
 Katie Klanderud:                                                    Steve Massey, Ed.D., Superintendent, Forest          Vinny W.
 Director of Board Development                                       Lake Area Schools
 Kimberley Dunn Lewis:
 Associate Director of Government Relations
 Bruce Lombard:
 Associate Director of Communications and Marketing
                                                                24 | A RETURN TO SCHOOL: WHAT
 Maria Lonis:                                                        SHOULD BE OUR FOCUS?
 Associate Director of Management Services
 Terence Morrow:                                                     RELATIONSHIPS
 Director of Legal and Policy Services                               Mental health and engagement
 Jaymyson Sillman:
 Information Technology Support                                      were two of the biggest concerns
 Joel Stencel:
 Director of Association Finance
                                                                     revealed in statewide surveys
                                                                     Katie Pekel, Ed.D., and Kim Gibbons, Ph.D.,
 The MSBA Journal (USPS 352-220) is published bimonthly              University of Minnesota
 by the Minnesota School Boards Association, 1900 West
 Jefferson Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota 56082. Telephone
 507-934-2450. Call MSBA office for subscription rates.
 (Opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the writers                                                              Paige L.
 and do not necessarily represent MSBA policy.)

                                                                    8 | STRAIGHT TALK MSBA Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind and MSBA President Mike Domin
                                                                  30 | ASK MSBA Denise Dittrich and Kimberley Dunn Lewis, MSBA Government Relations staff
                                                                  32 | VENDOR DIRECTORY Pierre Productions & Promotions, Inc.
                                                                  36 | LEGAL UPDATE Terence Morrow, MSBA Director of Legal and Policy Services

   JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                                           SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021           5
Journal minnesota school boards association
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11 ............ Columbus Day Observed (Optional Holiday)
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2............... Election Day (No Meetings or Activities from 6 p.m. to
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11 ............ Veterans Day (No Meetings)
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                                                                                                                            art in this issue.
26 ............ Optional Holiday
                                                                                                                            COVER ART:
DECEMBER 2021                                                                                                               Laura S.
3............... MSBA Board of Directors’ Meeting                                                                           Contact MSBA’s Bruce
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16 ............ MSBA Webinar Series: The Reorganizational Meeting
18 ............ MSBA Phase II Workshop – Part B (Virtual)
25 ............ Christmas Day (No Meetings Allowed)

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                                               SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021             7
Journal minnesota school boards association

                                                             Kirk Schneidawind

                           There’s no “easy” button,
                       but you got this, board members!
                                            By Kirk Schneidawind, MSBA Executive Director

As the governor’s executive orders             school boards and administrators under         You can, however, define how your
evaporated at the end of the 2021              this much pressure.                            school board leads at this time when it
legislative session, one big thing                                                            feels like there are no right answers and
                                               When individuals run for any public
became very clear: Decision-making                                                            the menu of options, which just happens
                                               office, they do it because they want to
authority would be restored to our                                                            to be missing the “easy” button, seems
                                               make a difference, a positive difference,
local governments, including our                                                              to be changing daily. Your leadership
                                               in the lives of those whom they represent.
school boards. Vaccination rates have                                                         and decisions matter. Gather as much
                                               If there is a group of elected officials
increased, COVID rates have declined,                                                         information as possible, prioritize staff
                                               who mean it when they say it, it is our
the preparation for and the beginning of                                                      and student safety, make informed
                                               school board members. All you need to
an in-person school year looks as solid                                                       decisions, and recognize that you may
                                               do is listen to our newest school board
as making a two-inch putt. Not so fast.                                                       need to pivot and repeat. Accept the
                                               members during MSBA’s “Learning to
The delta variant doesn’t care about your                                                     fact that your decisions will be judged.
                                               Lead — School Board Basics: Phase I
district’s plan.                                                                              But you also need to accept that you are
                                               Workshop” to understand.
                                                                                              making important decisions in a less-than-
The past 18 months have been a real
                                               While not a scientific poll, I can easily      ideal environment. Much of the return-
challenge for many, especially our school
                                               share that each new school board               to-school model was tested and built last
leaders. All of us were looking forward
                                               member wants our public school students        year. While keeping your students and
to swiftly moving beyond the COVID-
                                               to achieve, have an outstanding school         staff safe, your district has learned a lot
19 experience. Compounding political
                                               experience, and be prepared for life.          that you can build upon to make this
pressures and conflicting advice around
                                               Yet, those who get elected never really        school year better. You got this!
mask and vaccine recommendations have
                                               know what conditions and issues will be
made the preparation for this school year                                                     Accept the fact that your decisions will be
                                               on the table during their term of office.
less than normal.                                                                             judged, even when these decisions are
                                               A worldwide pandemic with catastrophic
                                                                                              anchored in your school district’s mission.
It would have been easy to throw up your       consequences that changed the way
arms in frustration due to the changing        we worked, lived, and went to school
status of advice and direction and let         would not have been something that you
                                                                                              Kirk Schneidawind is the MSBA Executive
someone else make a broader and                would have even thought possible. To
                                                                                              Director. You can contact him about this
uniform decision to ease the pressures         put it politely, your leadership path is not
                                                                                              column at
from your public. During my 22 years of        always well defined.
working for MSBA, I have not seen our

  8    SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                     MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
Journal minnesota school boards association
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JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                                 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                     9
Journal minnesota school boards association

                                 Reese M.

   Student Speech 2021: Students (Still)
         Say the Darndest Things
                                      Part Two: Off-Campus Speech
                                       By Christian Shafer, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A.

                         As discussed in Part 1 of this series in the May-       whether and to what extent those same factors
                         June 2021 issue of the Journal, the amount of           apply to schools’ attempts to restrict students’
                         control that a school district can legally exercise     off-campus speech. In that case, a high school
                         over student speech occurring on school                 freshman was upset with being placed on the
                         grounds or in a school program is dependent             junior varsity cheerleader team, as opposed
                         on several factors. Perhaps most notably,               to the varsity team. The student used her
                         absent specific content (e.g., whether the              personal phone to transmit “vulgar language
                         speech included vulgar language or promoted             and gestures criticizing both the school and the
                         illegal drug use), courts reviewing restrictions        school’s cheerleading team” via social media.
                         pertaining to on-campus student speech look to          Specifically, the student posted messages to
                         whether and to what extent the speech caused            Snapchat saying “[F—k] school [f—k] cheer
Christian Shafer
                         — or was reasonably likely to cause — a                 [f—k] everything” along with a picture of her
                         “substantial disruption of or material interference     and a friend with their middle fingers raised.
                         with school activities” or an “invasion of rights       The student also posted a second message
                         of others.”                                             complaining that she and another student were
                                                                                 told that they were to participate on the junior
                         When Part 1 of this series was published, the
                                                                                 varsity team for a year, but that another ninth-
                         case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.,
                                                                                 grade student was allowed on the varsity team.
                         colloquially known as the “cheerleader case”
                         was pending before the United States Supreme            The social media posts were made from a
                         Court. On June 23, 2021, the Court issued its           local business outside of school hours. Several
                         decision. The Mahanoy Court answered — or               other students were able to view the Snapchat
                         at least began to answer — the question of              posts. At least some students, including other

 10     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                 MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL

                      Anna H.                                              Reese M.

members of the cheerleading team were “visibly upset” by            campus speech would permit a school district to regulate
the posts and there was at least some discussion of the posts       “all the speech a student utters during the full 24-hour day.”
during one class. Once the cheerleading coaches became              Accordingly, the Court held that reviewing courts must be
aware of the posts, the school suspended the student from the       “more skeptical” of attempts to regulate off campus speech
cheerleading team for the entire season.                            and that, “[w]hen it comes to political or religious speech
                                                                    that occurs outside school or a school program or activity, the
The student sued, alleging that the school district violated
                                                                    school will have a heavy burden to justify intervention.”
her First Amendment free speech rights. The federal district
court sided with the student, holding that the school district      The third feature identified in the Mahanoy case is that
had not provided evidence that the student’s speech created         schools have an interest in “protecting a student’s unpopular
a substantial disruption and, therefore, that the school district   expression, especially when the expression takes place off
lacked grounds to discipline her for her speech. The Third          campus.” As the Court noted, “America’s public schools are
Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that school districts    the nurseries of democracy” and schools have a “strong
cannot discipline students for off-campus speech, regardless        interest in ensuring that future generations understand … the
of the risk of substantial disruption.                              well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I
                                                                    will defend to the death your right to say it…’”
Like the lower courts, the Supreme Court found that the
school district had violated the student’s First Amendment          Applying these features to the speech at issue, the Mahanoy
rights when it disciplined her for the Snapchat comments.           court determined that the school district did not have a
Unlike the Third Circuit, however, the Court concluded that         legitimate interest in regulating the student’s Snapchat posts.
schools’ interests in regulating off-campus speech “remain          Notably, the Court closely analyzed the school district’s
significant in some off-campus circumstances.” Nevertheless,        argument that the speech caused a substantial disruption
the Court declined to lay out a rule clearly identifying when       to school operations. While it rejected the school district’s
schools can regulate off-campus speech. The Court also did          disruption argument, the Court affirmed that disruption is one
not identify what may qualify as off-campus speech.                 of the factors that might give schools an interest in regulating
                                                                    off-campus speech.
Instead, the Supreme Court held that there are “three features
of off-campus speech that often, even if not always …               In light of the nebulous language of the Supreme Court’s
diminish the strength” of a school district’s ability to regulate   decision, and the lack of any subsequent cases discussing
student speech. The first such feature is that, unlike when         this standard, the Mahanoy decision leaves school districts
a student is on campus, school districts are not standing in        in a precarious situation when attempting to respond to off-
loco parentis for their students. Therefore, “[g]eographically      campus student speech. That being said, the Mahanoy Court,
speaking, off-campus speech will normally fall within the           as well as earlier First Amendment cases provide at least
zone of parental, rather than school-related, responsibility.”      some practical steps that schools can keep in mind when
                                                                    attempting to respond to students’ off-campus or internet
The second distinguishing feature of off-campus speech
identified by the Supreme Court is that regulating off-
                                                                                                               continued on page 10

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                        SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021      11

                                  Samantha D.

1. When Appropriate, It May Be Safer to Respond                   The first two Mahanoy factors relate to where and when a
to Conduct, Not Content of Speech.                                student actually posts the message. Following the Courts’
                                                                  analysis, schools may have a stronger argument that they
In many cases, it may be possible to avoid a First
                                                                  permissibly can discipline students for internet speech when
Amendment claim — or at least avoid wading into the
                                                                  the speech is posted on campus and/or during the school
unsettled question of whether certain speech can be
                                                                  day or during a school event. Indeed, in declining to identify
regulated — by focusing on the student’s conduct, as
                                                                  what constitutes off-campus speech, the Mahanoy court
opposed to the student’s speech. For example, in the case of
                                                                  commented that “the advent of computer-based learning”
Requa v. Kent Sch. Dist. No. 415, which remains persuasive
                                                                  made it difficult to determine which school-related, but off-
following the Mahanoy decision, a student secretly recorded
                                                                  campus activities could be considered “off-campus speech.”
a video of a teacher and posted the video (with unflattering
                                                                  Ensuring that your school district clearly and reasonably
comments and gestures) to the internet. After the school
                                                                  identifies what is considered “school related” conduct and
district suspended the student, the student sought an
                                                                  adequately informs students of these expectations may create
injunction in federal court, alleging that his First Amendment
                                                                  a stronger argument that the speech may be regulated.
rights had been violated. The school district responded that
it did not suspend the student for posting the video. Instead,    3. Evidence of Substantial Disruption, or at Least
the school district pointed out that it suspended the student     a Reasonable Likelihood of Substantial Disruption,
for secretly recording the teacher in violation of the school     May Give Schools’ Greater Leeway in Responding
district’s technology policies. The court agreed with the         to Off-Campus Student Speech.
school district and dismissed the student’s request for an
                                                                  In Mahanoy, the Supreme Court identified preventing a
injunction on First Amendment grounds at an early stage of
                                                                  “substantial disruption of learning-related activities [and]
the proceeding.
                                                                  the protection of those who make up a school community”
Many school districts have policies prohibiting video             as examples of schools’ potential authority to regulate off
recording in school. Many school districts also have policies     campus speech. As mentioned above, the Mahanoy court
prohibiting students from using cellphones during class or        also specifically analyzed the school district’s argument that
using school district computer resources (such as school-         the student’s speech created a substantial disruption and,
issued tablets or computers) for non-school district purposes.    therefore, was subject to regulation. Accordingly, while
If a student’s use of social media, messaging, etc. violates      the Supreme Court did not expressly hold that evidence
those policies regardless of the content, focusing disciplinary   of substantial disruption will necessarily allow a school to
decisions on those violations, rather than the content of the     regulate off-campus student speech, having such evidence
student’s speech, may be less likely result in liability.         may give the school stronger legal arguments. Schools
                                                                  should remember that this has always been a standard the
2. The More “School Related” the Off-Campus
                                                                  courts have required to be proven. The holding of Mahanoy
Speech Is, the Greater the Chance that a Court Will
                                                                  only reinforces the need to have clear and articulable proof
Permit Schools to Regulate Such Speech.
                                                                  of such disruption and not just a “fear” of disruption.

12     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                              MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL

                                    Tim P.

4. Standing Alone, the Fact that Off-Campus                         Mahanoy does not stand for the position that off-campus
Speech Is Vulgar or Unpleasant Does Not Permit                      speech can never be regulated. Certain types of harassing
Schools to Discipline Students for Such Speech.                     and bullying speech, when there is a nexus to the school
                                                                    context, may remain subject to potential discipline.
As far back as the Tinker case discussed in part one of this
series, the Supreme Court has been clear that hard feelings         6. Other Factors May Affect Schools’ Ability to
are not a basis for disciplining students for their speech.         Respond to Off-Campus Student Speech.
The Mahanoy case re-affirmed that principle. Similarly, in
                                                                    In addition to the three indicia of off-campus speech
Mahanoy, the Court clarified that the school’s “interest in
                                                                    discussed above, the Court’s opinion also includes a list of
teaching good manners” and prohibiting the use of vulgar
                                                                    factors that may impact a school’s ability to regulate off-
language directed at the school community was “weakened
                                                                    campus speech. Those factors include the “student’s age, the
considerably” by virtue of the speech occurring outside of
                                                                    nature of the school’s off-campus activity, [and] the impact
school and on the student’s own time and where the school
                                                                    upon the school itself.” Combined with those three factors,
was not acting in loco parentis. In so doing, the Court
                                                                    as well as the Court’s repeated statement that it was not
noted that the Fraser case — discussed in part one of this
                                                                    identifying a hard and fast rule regarding off-campus speech,
series — was limited to speech occurring on-campus. In light
                                                                    whether and to what extent a school can respond to student
of this language, it is clear that the fact that a student’s off-
                                                                    speech remains a fact intensive inquiry.
campus speech may be vulgar or unpleasant cannot be used
as an independent basis for discipline or removal of school         In summary, the Mahanoy decision, while not overturning
privileges.                                                         past precedent as to schools’ ability to discipline students for
                                                                    off-campus speech, provides greater guidelines as to what
5. Cyberbullying or Unlawful Harassment
                                                                    speech may or may or may not be regulated. Schools can
Occurring Online may be Subject to Greater
                                                                    reduce their risk of potentially expensive financial liability
                                                                    and extended litigation by carefully considering these issues
While the Mahanoy case did not specifically discuss                 and consulting with their legal counsel before imposing
cyberbullying or harassing speech, it does reference “severe        discipline for a student’s speech, especially if that speech
bullying or harassment targeting particular individuals,” as        occurred off-campus or via social media and falls within
well as threats, as examples of off-campus behavior that            those areas identified by the Court.
“may call for school regulation.” Similarly, in discussing
the specifics of the case, the Court noted that the student’s
speech did not “target any member of the school community           Christian Shafer is a shareholder of Ratwik, Roszak &
with vulgar or abusive language.” Although the Court did            Maloney. He advises both school district and municipal
not rule on abusive or harassing e-speech, it appears at least      clients in employment matters, all areas of school law,
plausible that future courts will give more leeway to attempts      special education law, municipal law, and labor law. Learn
to regulate that type of speech, as opposed to speech               more about Christian at
criticizing a school’s decision or other “pure” speech. Thus,       christian-shafer.

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                       SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021       13
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JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021         15

Dealing with Racial Incidents in Schools
                Administrators need to prepare, combat racism, and teach
                                          By Derek Francis, Minneapolis Public Schools

                          Racist incidents in our schools create a               feel welcomed. For far too long racism has
                          persistent compounding inferior feeling for            plagued our schools. Racism is a pandemic.
                          students of color that can lead to them not
                                                                                 We can no longer stand by in silence
                          feeling a sense of belonging and significance
                                                                                 without opposition. There is a call to action
                          in our school system, thus becoming intensely
                                                                                 for transformational leadership. There is
                                                                                 a great need for transformation using an
                          Alfred Adler, founder of Adlerian                      equity lens in hiring teachers, student services
                          psychotherapy, said: “Meanings are not                 personnel, and administrators of color,
                          determined by situations, we determine                 white colleagues auditing their implicit bias,
                          ourselves by the meanings we give to                   classroom instruction, curriculum, and policies
Derek Francis
                          situations.” From the racial incidents that take       and procedures. These components demand
                          place in our schools, we must consciously              systemic change which entails examining the
                          and critically ask ourselves, “What kinds              self.
                          of meanings are being formulated by our
                                                                                 Change will not just happen. Collectivistically,
                          students, staff, and community?”
                                                                                 we must join hand in hand and walk step by
                          We are social beings, and our strongest                step, toward the betterment of our humanity.
                          motivation is the desire to belong. The feelings       “The ultimate measure of a man is not
                          of inferiority can lead to attendance concerns,        where he stands in moments of comfort and
                          deficiency in achievement, and mental health           convenience, but where he stands at times of
                          problems. What meaning are students of                 challenge and controversy. The true neighbor
                          color creating for themselves in systems that          will risk his position, his prestige, and even his
                          are built around white ideology, is this largely       life for the welfare of others.” – Martin Luther
                          inequitable system how we want them to                 King Jr.
                          determine themselves?
                                                                                 Superintendents, principals, and other building
                          The pandemic extensively revealed already              administrators shape the school climate
                          what we knew to be true about the underbelly           through hiring, policies, and educational
                          of the systemic racism that created the                practices. School leaders have influence on
                          achievement gap and educational disparities.           the culture of the building. In my 10 years as
                          We are at a critical moment in time,                   a school counselor, I have witnessed the pain
                          where we as a collective unit of teachers,             students and families feel when racism occurs
                          school counselors, social workers, school              in schools and the situation is not addressed.
                          psychologist, educational support staff,               Minnesota has seen an increase of racism in
                          engineers, cooks, principals, and board                schools. Racism, while not a physical form of
                          members must choose the kind of future                 abuse which leaves scars, is an emotional form
                          we want to help foster for all students to             of abuse and requires emotional healing.

16     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL

                                             Rosie W.

Below are three strategies to begin healing your                  and social media are common areas that students report
community.                                                        hearing and seeing racism.
1. Prepare                                                        How are you recording which racial groups are being
This begins with preparing yourself as a leader. How              targeted? Have systems in place for students to share when
comfortable have you been in your personal life addressing        racism happens. How are targeted students being heard?
racism and discrimination when it happens? It could be            Creating space for students to share what they are hearing
that relative at dinner who makes racist comments, or             will be the first step to building trust. What steps are you
bias thoughts in your own belief towards certain groups           doing as a building to combat racism in your community?
of people. How have you started the work of being                 As a leader, prepare for push back and have a plan to
accountable to growing? If you are not aware of your own          stand boldly.
limitations in your knowledge of addressing racism, then it
                                                                  3. Teach
is important to do your own work first.
                                                                  If you want to see your school climate reduce racism, it is
Administrators are viewed as knowledgeable leaders in             crucial that you infuse antibias antiracism content. Racism is
education. As a leader, you need to have the humility to          a learned behavior pattern that must be unlearned through
take a seat and listen to how racism and discrimination feels     education. Often this learning is communal – meaning
for marginalized students and families. Have humility to get      parents, staff, and students will be engaging in these
the support you need. Preparing means having a system             conversations. Each person will come in with a different
of response like you would for a fire drill. Has there been       comfort level for engaging in conversations about race.
racist incidents in your school? How did you address those
                                                                  Create spaces in your school day for all students to learn
incidents? What systems do you have in place? Which
                                                                  about their racial identity and those around them. Find ways
communities in your building are you not hearing from? Do
                                                                  to use the events that occur in our society to be teaching
not wait until another incident in your district occurs to take
                                                                  moments. In Minneapolis Public Schools, we are intentional
                                                                  in having age-appropriate resources for students to have
2. Combat                                                         critical conversations about race. In order to see our country
Racism happens in schools every day. Whether it is peer           heal from racism, education must lead the way, and that
to peer, educator to educator, or educator and student, I         begins with administrators.
have heard countless stories of verbal and systemic racism.
According to Teaching Tolerance, “Racial bias makes up
33% of incidents reported by educators and 66% that               Derek Francis is a Manager of Counseling Services at
are reported in the news.” Most instances of racism go            Minneapolis Public Schools. Direct questions about this
unaddressed. School hallways, classrooms, locker rooms,           article to Derek at

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021      17
Gillian L.

  Strategic Planning: Putting Diversity,
 Equity, and Inclusion Goals Into Action
                    “Education equity is the foundation to everything we do.”
                                    By Steve Massey, Ed.D., Superintendent, Forest Lake Area Schools

                       There are a lot of voices right now competing               of belief and is a guidepost for the district’s
                       for our attention on topics of diversity,                   work to fulfill our core enterprise; that is, to
                       equity, and inclusion. Different perspectives               prepare and empower every student to thrive in
                       are important, but talk alone won’t make a                  and contribute to an ever-changing world. This
                       difference for our students. School districts need          is our mission and it inspires all aspects of our
                       a mechanism to move talk into action and keep               district.
                       staff focused on making purposeful changes that
                                                                                   Like most districts, we had an existing, but
                       will improve outcomes for students, particularly
                                                                                   outdated, strategic plan. In our case, the plan
                       those who have been historically underserved.
                                                                                   was initially drafted in 2006 and had been
     Steve Massey      At Forest Lake Area Schools, our new strategic              updated a couple of times along the way.
                       plan is serving as this mechanism for change.               However, the plan was written for a different
                       We designed our strategic plan specifically                 day and a different time and we needed a
                       with equity in mind, and we’re using it to focus            strategic plan that was relevant to the demands
                       and propel our work in equity, and keep this                and needs of our students, families, and
                       important topic forefront in all our decision-              community. After considering a number of
                       making.                                                     different consulting firms and facilitators to lead
                                                                                   the revision of our strategic plan, we selected
                       Educational equity is the foundation to
                                                                                   the strategic planning process designed by
                       everything we do. From the beginning of
                                                                                   MSBA and their staff to lead our process.
                       our work with the Minnesota School Boards
                       Association to rewrite the strategic plan for               Somewhat out of order, we had already
                       Forest Lake Area Schools, this belief statement             developed a district equity framework prior to
                       guided our discussions and planning. Our                    our strategic plan that articulates our mission
                       strategic plan begins with this focused statement           and commitment to providing equitable learning

18     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                    MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
Jacob D.

opportunities and outcomes for our students. This framework         • Action Step: Identify and provide curriculum resources
served as an invaluable resource as we began the work                 and materials for each subject area at each grade
of developing our strategic plan. We were able to move                level that represents the contributions of the leaders/
quickly into the conversation around mission, vision, goals,          figures, cultures, and histories of students of color
objectives, and action plans without needing to define what           (absent narratives).
it means to be a district that provides equitable access and
                                                                 This object specifically addresses the system change
outcomes for our students. This work was already done and
                                                                 needed to provide a more inclusive and equitable learning
served as a guiding document for our strategic planning
                                                                 experience for each student. Like many districts, our
                                                                 curriculum needs to be expanded to better represent the
MSBA staff worked with us through their structured strategic     histories, cultures, leaders, and narratives of our students
planning process. This process, which is well documented         of color. This comprehensive curriculum and pedagogy
on the MSBA website, garners community, staff, family, and       will benefit all students in their effort to develop empathy,
student input and filters many ideas into a plan with simple     perspective, and knowledge.
and clear vision and mission statements and succinct goals
                                                                 Earlier this school year, we launched a partnership with the
and objectives. The plan we developed serves as a school
                                                                 District Management Group and The Leadership Academy
board governance document and is a dynamic plan that
                                                                 to work with our instructional review and development teams
defines our district’s work.
                                                                 in English Language Arts and Social Studies to examine
While equity is the foundation to everything we do, equity       our current curriculum and instructional practices, create
and inclusion is specifically detailed in two of our six focus   alignment with new state standards, provide professional
areas: Excellence in High Quality Instruction; and Excellence    development and procure and develop curriculum resources
in Equitable Learning Opportunities.                             that expand the learning experience for students.
Three specific objectives and related action plans were          To guide the work of the following objectives, an equity
developed that guide the district’s diversity, equity, and       steering team comprised of parents/guardians, licensed
inclusion efforts. These objectives and action plans include:    and classified staff, administrators and community members
                                                                 who demographically represent the FLAS student body.
  Objective: Expand E-12 curriculum and instruction to be
                                                                 This committee meets regularly to create plans and monitor
  culturally relevant and responsive so that it represents
                                                                 progress on the objectives and action steps outlined below.
  each student.
                                                                   Objective: Create and implement a plan to enhance
   • Action Step: Provide ongoing professional
                                                                   cultural competency among staff and students.
     development so that educators are comfortable and
     skilled in the use of culturally responsive instruction/       • Action Step: Create a needs assessment to identify
     teaching practices.                                              specific topics related to educational equity for all
                                                                                                          continued on page 20

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                   SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021        19
Mandy B.                                                         Alexa R.

       staff groups in the district, including licensed staff,   Lake Area, which is a partnership between the school
       administrators, classified staff, and students.           district, the City of Forest Lake, and the local YMCA. The
                                                                 vision of the Everyone Belongs Project is to ensure that
     • Action Step 3.1.2: Based on this needs assessment,
                                                                 all individuals and families are welcome and belong. The
       provide ongoing, developmentally appropriate
                                                                 project’s purpose is to create a welcoming and inclusive
       professional development for each grade level,
                                                                 community, increase intercultural awareness and leadership,
       instructional level, program or employee group,
                                                                 expand intercultural competence as it relates to our
       focused on Culturally Responsive Teaching, Culturally
                                                                 community and schools, enhance school and community
       Responsive School Leadership, Culturally Responsive
                                                                 culture to support diversity, equity and belonging, provide
       Student Leadership, and other topics related to
                                                                 a strategic structure for creating inclusive communities,
       educational equity.
                                                                 and foster intercultural relationships both internally and
  Objective: Identify and develop consistent and regular         externally.
  activities to make all students feel welcome at all grade
                                                                 An effective strategic plan is dynamic, relevant, and active.
                                                                 The strategic plan guides the work of the school district and
     • Action Step: Create a process to evaluate whether         represents all stakeholders. The Forest Lake Area Schools
       current instructional practices and extracurricular       strategic plan is the playbook that details our work and
       programming promote a sense of belonging, safety,         establishes the high standards expected by our students,
       and being valued for each student. Identify strengths     families, and community. The plan helps turn our goals
       and areas for growth at each grade level across the       into action and make a real difference for the students and
       district.                                                 families in our district.
     • Action Step: Based on this review process, create         The Forest Lake Area Schools Strategic Plan can be found
       and implement a plan that addresses what activities/      at:
       practices the district should keep doing, stop doing,
       and/or start doing in order to create a more
       consistent and equitable approach to community            Steve Massey is the superintendent of Forest Lake Area
       building and asset-based education for students.          Schools. You may contact him about this article at
Our district’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
is also evident in the Everyone Belongs Project of the Forest

20      SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                            MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
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JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                                    SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021        21
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22      SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                                                 MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
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JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                  SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021     23
A Return to School: What Should
                  Be Our Focus? Relationships
                   Mental health and engagement were two of the biggest
                           concerns revealed in statewide surveys
                                By Katie Pekel, Ed.D., and Kim Gibbons, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

                                 As schools across the state return to what they              grading practices, literacy instruction, and a
                                 hope will be a more “normal” year, there                     whole host of other really important topics, we
                                 are many things that understandably will vie                 would invite you to ask yourself, “when was
                                 for attention: COVID-19 safety protocols,                    the last time our district explicitly focused on
                                 perceived learning loss, mental health, social               relationships either in professional development
                                 and emotional learning, and racial equity, to                or in data gathering and analysis?” In a
                                 name just a few. While we know each school                   discussion about “relationships,” we feel a
                                 and district has its own context, we draw                    conceptual framework is helpful. We offer the
                                 upon the results of the two statewide MN Safe                Developmental Relationships Framework2 from
                                 Learning Surveys1 to advocate that a focus on                Search Institute (,
                                 relationships, specifically educator and student             a nationally recognized nonprofit research to
     Katie Pekel, Ed.D.          relationships, is the route to productively                  practice organization located in Minneapolis.
                                 addressing many competing priorities. We                     Drawing on both the vast literature surrounding
                                 realize this is easier said than done.                       relationships and their own research, Search
                                                                                              Institute defines a Developmental Relationship
                                 Defining Relationships
                                                                                              in five elements: (1) expressing care, (2)
                                 While we believe educators value                             challenging growth, (3) providing support, (4)
                                 relationships, and strive to develop them with               sharing power, and (5) expanding possibilities.
                                 their students, we recognize that relationship-              Supporting these five elements are 20 actions
                                 building itself is rarely the focus of professional          educators can draw upon as they work to
                                 development in back-to-school sessions or PLC                build these developmental relationships with
                                 meetings. While educators understandably                     young people.
                                 spend time on things like data analysis,

     Kim Gibbons, Ph.D.
                                  1 MN  Statewide Learning Surveys
                                  2 Search Institute Developmental Relationships Framework

24     SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                                                          MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION | JOURNAL
challenges. When asked in the spring survey
                                                                                                                           what they wanted to see moving forward,
                                                                                                                           educator comments focused on infrastructure
                                                                                                                           and workload, families cited desires to return
                                                                                                                           to full-time in-person learning, and students
                                                        EXPRESS CARE                                                       were concerned about grades, assignments,
                                                        Show me that I matter to you.
                                                        Be dependable                   Be warm                            and workload. All of this quantitative and
                                                        Be someone I can trust          Show me you enjoy being with me

                                                        Listen                          Encourage
                                                                                                                           qualitative data supports the need to be
                                                        Really pay attention when
                                                        we are together
                                                                                        Praise me for my efforts
                                                                                        and achievements                   focused on mental health. Yet, we know
                                                        Believe in me                                                      classroom teachers cannot do this alone.
      The Framework                                     Make me feel known and valued
                                                                                                                           Experts are needed. Financial investments in
      Developmental          relationships
                                                        CHALLENGE GROWTH                                                   support systems that link school-based mental
      are the roots of thriving and
                                                        Push me to keep getting better.
      resilience for young people, re-                                                                                     health experts with those in our communities
                                                        Expect my best                  Hold me accountable
      gardless of their background or
      circumstances. Through these
                                                        Expect me to live up
                                                        to my potential
                                                                                        Insist I take responsibility
                                                                                        for my actions
                                                                                                                           to support students and families could
      relationships, young people
                                                        Stretch                         Reflect on failures
                                                                                                                           provide needed space for classroom teachers
      discover who they are, cultivate
      abilities to shape their own lives,
                                                        Push me to go further           Help me learn from
                                                                                        mistakes and setbacks              to focus on the other remaining concerns.
      and learn how to engage with
      and contribute to the world                                                                                          Engagement
      around them. Just as trees rely                   PROVIDE SUPPORT
      on a system of roots to support                   Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
      and nourish them, young peo-                      Navigate                        Advocate
                                                                                                                                           Perhaps the most difficult finding from
      ple need to experience devel-                     Guide me through hard
                                                        situations and systems
                                                                                        Stand up for me when I need it
                                                                                                                                           the SLS to wrap our heads around is
      opmental relationships in their
      families, schools, programs,                       Empower
                                                                                         Set boundaries
                                                                                         Put limits in place                               that surrounding student engagement, as
                                                                                                                                           respondent groups were fairly divided in their
                                                         Build my confidence to          that keep me on track
      and communities. However, too
                                                         take charge of my life
      many young people miss these
      opportunities due to bias, prej-                                                                                                     reported experiences. Educators reported
      udice, and systemic exclusion                      SHARE POWER                                                                       “engaging students in learning” as their
      based on their race, ethnicity,                    Treat me with respect and give me a say.
      income, gender, sexual orienta-
                                                         Respect me                      Collaborate                                       No. 1 success and their No. 3 challenge.
      tion, abilities, or other differenc-
                                                                                                                                           Similarly, families reported “receiving
                                                         Take me seriously and           Work with me to solve
      es. Ensuring that every young                      treat me fairly                 problems and reach goals
      person experiences the develop-
      mental relationships they need
                                                         Include me                      Let me lead                                       support from teachers” as their No. 1
                                                         Involve me in decisions         Create opportunities for me to
      is a vital challenge for the 21st                  that affect me                  take action and lead                              success and their No. 2 challenge. Students
                                                                                                                                           reported “keeping up with schoolwork”
                                                         EXPAND POSSIBILITIES                                                              and “understanding schoolwork” as their
                                                         Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.
     The Developmental Relationships Framework           Inspire                         Connect                                           No. 1 and No. 2 challenges, respectively.
     was developed by Search Institute, Minneapolis,     Inspire me to see possibilities Introduce me to people who
     MN; 800-888-7828;          for my future                   can help me grow                                  This likely contributed to the perceived
                                                                                                                                           difficulty of engaging students that educators
     Copyright © 2020. It may be reproduced with
     attribution and without alteration for educational, Broaden horizons
     noncommercial uses only.                            Expose me to new ideas,
                                                         experiences, and places                                                           reported. As most return to school this
                                                                                                                                           fall, there may be a desire to fix “learning
                                                                                                                                           loss.” (See “How to Redirect the Tempting
Developmental Relationships Framework from Search Institute (
                                                                                                                                           Conversation of Learning Loss” on Pages
                                                                                                                                           24-27 in the July-August 2021 edition of the
Why Relationships                                                                                                                          MSBA Journal magazine at http://www.
                                                                                                            However, as
Our findings from the two statewide MN Safe Learning Surveys
                                                                                                                     the often cited saying goes, “Students don’t care how much you
(SLS) aimed to capture the experiences of educators, families, and
                                                                                                                     know until they know how much you care.” And, as we will see
students during the 2020-2021 academic year. Over 39,000
                                                                                                                     in the next section, being behind academically is a real concern,
respondents across two distributions overwhelmingly told us they
                                                                                                                     yet engaging students in learning cannot be demanded, and it
are concerned about mental health, engagement, and being
                                                                                                                     will not come without an intentional focus on building authentic
behind academically. Addressing these will be important, but
                                                                                                                     relationships with young people.
an overarching vision or vehicle for doing so may be found in a
genuine focus on relationships. Let’s look at each of these areas                                                    Being Behind Academically
more closely.
                                                                                                                     When asked about learning this past school year, all respondent
Mental Health                                                                                                        groups agreed they felt some learning was taking place; however,
                                                                                                                     they also overwhelmingly reported they felt more learning was
In both the winter and spring SLS, when asked about needed
                                                                                                                     taking place pre-COVID. That information combined with the fact
supports, teachers, support professionals, administrators, families,
                                                                                                                     that students reported their No. 1 concern moving forward was
and students all cited mental health within their top three

                                                                                                                                                           continued on page 26

JOURNAL | MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION                                                                                               SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2021                  25
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