Villager Inbox

School resource officers got a bad rap in Villager story

The article about school resource officers (SROs) in the July 8 Villager was disappointing. I was specifically troubled by the Villager’s willingness to print inflammatory quotes by Saint Paul School Board member Chauntyll Allen and Como Park High School student Kalid Ali. Neither Ms. Allen’s remark that having an SRO present at a school was a “traumatic situation,” nor Mr. Ali’s remark that “if you see an officer with a gun, it’s a threat that you might be the next one on his hit list,” reflected the day-to-day reality of SROs in Saint Paul schools. Why did the reporter, Casey Ek, not query Ms. Allen and Mr. Ali further to have them offer evidence to support these mind-boggling assertions?

Both of my children have attended Saint Paul schools, and my daughter is a senior at Washington Technology Magnet School on the city’s North Side. I have also volunteered at Washington, serving for the last four years on the school’s School Climate Improvement Team. SCIT teams routinely review disciplinary data and speak with school leaders. Never in the past four years have we read or heard about SROs at Washington or elsewhere causing “trauma” or carrying a “hit list.” In fact, I’m unaware of any SRO ever having drawn his or her gun. My own observations and interactions with SROs on duty at Washington are closer to the scene depicted in the photo accompanying your article of an SRO engaged in nonconfrontational conversation with students, who show evident respect for the uniformed officer.

I believe, as do most district teachers and principals, that having SROs stationed in Saint Paul high schools is a good idea and supported by data. If there’s conflict at the school, it nearly always arises from students in conflict with each other or with teachers and administrators. SROs were not the cause of any “trauma” or trouble; they were there to prevent it by their very presence and to deal with it in coordination with school teachers and staff.

In the aftermath of the protests and riots in late May and early June, Minneapolis police have reduced their patrol presence in the city. Not surprisingly, crime has risen. I predict that whenever students return to Saint Paul high schools, the same dynamic will take hold. Misbehaving students understand moral hazard as well as adults, and will adjust quickly to the absence of SROs. Inevitably, police will be called for more serious situations. Hopefully, they won’t be too late to help.

Barry Randall
Macalester-Groveland

Add sports fields to Ford site

Our neighborhood is missing a big opportunity by not putting more fields for recreational sports at the Ford site. The development will create an increase in the population of Highland Park. Many of the people moving in will be families with children. These kids will want to play sports near their home. Kids don’t want to stroll in a landscaped park, they want to play sports like soccer, lacrosse and basketball. The high density of the Ford site means these kids won’t have a backyard of their own to run around in.

A great place for recreational fields on the Ford site would be the southwest corner of Montreal and Cleveland avenues. This area is adjacent to the existing baseball and softball diamonds and is farther away from residential buildings to minimize the impact of lights and noise. It should be rezoned for recreational fields.

Dominik Amann, Age 15
Highland Park

Heroes who stand up for justice

In Jack Maloney’s letter to the editor (“Many ways to combat racism,” Villager Inbox, July 8), he suggested that the people who protested the murder of George Floyd put their time and passion into “actually doing something constructive.” Please don’t assume that people who protested aren’t the same people who are already donating time to a food bank or homeless shelter, teaching ESL, cleaning up public spaces or volunteering with children in inner-city schools. The protests are the very reason that all four police officers were arrested for the murder of Mr. Floyd. If people had not taken to the streets, the officers would not have been charged. People have grown weary of repeatedly seeing police officers put on paid leave while the department investigates, only to declare the officers’ actions justified.

When our nation was created, rights were only granted to wealthy white males. Every right outside of the original (voting rights for women, civil rights, GLBT rights, etc.) was fought for by people taking to the streets in protest. One could argue it is the ultimate act required to enact systemic change.

Mr. Maloney stated that protesting is the most convenient way to combat racism. There is nothing convenient about marching in the scorching heat for hours, facing down militarized police and being shot at with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades. The people who put their personal safety on the line to stand up for racial and social justice are heroes. When they’re not exhausting themselves in the streets, I can assure you they’re already out there volunteering in the community.

Rachel Goligoski
Lexington-Hamline

Good riddance to racist logos

Twenty years ago, the suburban high school where I coached and taught banned students from wearing T-shirts and belt buckles with the Confederate battle flag. Likewise, students were not allowed to park in the student lot if their vehicles carried images of that flag. Despite objections by some students and parents, the measures were put in place by the school board and administrators because the display of the CSA battle flag was seen for what it was—a symbol of hate and white supremacy that could provoke violent conflicts between students.

In my school, the display of the CSA battle flag by a small number of students was done primarily to intimidate, demean and taunt minority students as well as students who held liberal ideas about politics. The students who opposed the ban sometimes said they were merely honoring American history and heritage. It’s unlikely any of them would have been able to name a single Civil War battlefield or Union or Confederate general, or describe what Reconstruction was about or the purpose of Jim Crow laws. Certainly, these same students would probably not have had a clue regarding the lives of enslaved people or why the Civil War was fought. All they knew was that for some vague reason, the CSA battle flag was a way for them to antagonize authorities and feel superior to other students.

Twenty-eight years ago, a group from my church attended a service at All Nations Church, which primarily serves the Native American community in Minneapolis. After the service, we all marched to the Metrodome to protest the racially offensive logo of the Washington Redskins, a team that was set to play the Buffalo Bills later that day in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. This many years later, the Redskins will finally change the team name. Sadly, team owners apparently are not considering the name change because of any moral outrage on the part of the public. Instead, the name change has more to do with the bottom line: Nike has refused to carry clothing and other team paraphernalia that display the Redskins logo and name.

My hometown of Cleveland has finally decided it’s time the Indians dropped its offensive team name, and the state of Mississippi recently removed the CSA battle flag inset on its state flag. It’s nice to see that the former states of the Confederacy, NASCAR, the National Football League and Major League Baseball will finally enter the modern era and dispense with their racist symbols. They should be commended, but hey, what took you guys so long?

M.L. Kluznik
Mendota Heights

Great city needs a new name

I have enjoyed living in this progressive and liberal-minded city for the past 12 years. However, one thing that has always bothered me is the name. How can there be a separation between church and state when the city is named Saint Paul? Is it fair to force our Muslim neighbors and people of other faiths (as well as atheists) to live in a city named after a Christian saint? In the current time when we are reevaluating statues and monuments as well as the names of lakes and parkways, we need to consider the same for our city. At a minimum, the name is politically incorrect and to some it may be offensive. In 2016 Barrow, Alaska, changed its name to an indigenous word. It is time for Saint Paul to do the same. We need a name that is inclusive to all people who call this great city home.

Chris Bredehoft
Merriam Park

Protests need protections

Sad but not unexpected that a young lady recently lost her life in Seattle while protesting on Interstate 5. Summer Taylor, 24, protesting with several others around 1:40 a.m. on July 4, was struck by a car along with another person who remains in critical condition as I’m writing this. News reports say the freeway was closed and blocked with several cars with no lights on, but a car swerved around the stationary cars and into the protesters. The driver who left the scene was eventually stopped by protesters in another car until authorities could make an arrest.

Apparently, the Washington State Patrol had closed the freeway ramps. They assume the driver got on the freeway by driving the wrong way down an exit ramp. Now the Washington State Patrol will no longer allow protests on Interstate 5. Seems like they admit they looked the other way knowing people were on the freeway but refused to send vehicles with flashing lights to protect the protesters as a warning to any vehicle that might have ended up there.

I put the biggest blame on the local politicians who let this tragedy happen in the first place. Will our own mayors and governor get the message and stop the reckless behavior we’re seeing in our own city before more people have to die?

W. Huemmer
Highland Park

Discomfort for the privileged

I generally am a fan of Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. But his statement that police officers were treated during the recent civil unrest in ways that were “dehumanizing” left me bitterly angry. Did it make them feel vulnerable, falsely accused, targeted, prejudged, victimized or fearful? Now imagine feeling this all your life as a black man or woman in this city.

I’d like to think the Saint Paul Police Department learned a valuable lesson from the experience of “civil unrest.” That is what civil unrest is supposed to do: make those who are privileged feel the discomfort of those who are suffering. But it seems to have gone over Chief Axtell’s head. His obliviously insensitive statement left me teary with hopelessness. It’s not just people of color whose trust they’ve lost.

Kate Vichich
Snelling-Hamline

Hypocrisy of suing big oil

The state of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against large oil firms for making misleading statements about climate change. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has said these misleading statements have been going on for 30 years. If the state knows the truth about the dangerous effects of burning fossil fuels and has known for 30 years, why does it keep building roads to promote driving and the burning of fossil fuels? Keith Ellison, the frontman in this lawsuit, knows the truth firsthand, so does he ride a bike when traveling around the state?

Why isn’t the state filing a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company? For decades, Ford has known the truth about climate change, yet it continues to build its hugely popular F-Series pickup trucks that are gas-guzzling, iceberg-melting machines. In 2019 alone, Ford sold 900,000 F-Series pickup trucks. Why isn’t Ford in trouble? Why are only those who provide the gas in trouble? Keith Ellison and millions of Minnesotans drive all over the place, and they’re going to blame this on the oil firms? Get real.

Frank Erickson
Standish, Minneapolis

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