Less than a week after a lawsuit was filed by a local teachers union against the Becker Public Schools District, the school board has decided to "rescind" its controversial proposed communications policy.
In a special board meeting Tuesday, school board members met for less than five minutes to discuss the policy, which hadn't been voted on due to a pending legal review. They unanimously voted throw out the policy.
The plan would have prevented Becker educators and staff from talking to "the media, individuals or entities outside the district relating to student or personnel matters."
It was adopted on May 2 but immediately faced backlash from staff and students in the school district. The lawsuit, filed by Education Minnesota's affiliate Becker Education Association, claimed that the policy violated the free speech provision of Minnesota's constitution and several state laws, and amount to a "gag order."
"We're disappointed that we've have to go through this adversarial process in working through that communication plan," Mark Swanson, Chairman of the board, said during the special meeting on Tuesday. "We're also disappointed, as we stated in the district's statement to the media, that the lawsuit misconstrues the purpose and the effect of the district plan, as well as the goals and objectives that were stated on May 2."
The lawsuit was filed last week to further prevent the policy from going into effect.
“Defendant district has adopted a policy that is antithetical to the values of public education, which encourage personal growth and debate,” the lawsuit states. “However, it is most relevant to the work of this Court that the policies are antithetical to the Minnesota Constitution and a range of Minnesota statutes.”
The local teachers union said not only would the plan have restricted teachers from saying anything negative about the school district as a whole, the suit says the restrictions on discussing student matters were "so broad" that it would prevent staff members from complying with Minnesota's Maltreatment of Minors statute.
According to court records, an order for dismissal of the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the wake of the school board's decision, with Sherburne County District Judge Karen Schommer expected to address the case at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The same union is also considering legal action against another proposed policy in Becker that seeks to restrict students from learning the history of racism and LGBTQ-related topics within the district.
The policy states that classrooms would need to be free of any "personal bias" or materials "favoring any particular group, political ideology, favored class or promoting controversial issues."