The Potluck

Becker School Board delays vote on policy banning ‘inherently divisive concepts’

By: - August 1, 2022 8:16 pm

A screenshot of the Becker School District's meeting on Monday, Aug. 1. The board ultimately delayed discussion and voting on the policy.

The Becker School Board on Monday delayed voting on a policy that would ban district staff from teaching “inherently divisive concepts,” which many say will have a dampening effect on free speech and could restrict education about racism and anything LGBT-related.

The school board in Becker, Minnesota, a city of more than 4,800 people about an hour drive northwest of St. Paul, decided the language needed legal review before it could vote on it.

Despite the delay, community members implored the Becker School Board during public comment on Monday to ultimately not pass the policy, as it will alienate LGBT students and inhibit teaching accurate U.S. history. A retired teacher likened the policy to authoritarianism and fascism.

The controversy comes amid a wave of school boards and states passing similar policies and laws aimed at restricting discussions of race and sexual orientation. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order banning “inherently divisive concepts” and so-called Critical Race Theory, which is a college-level concept about the role of race in American law and policy.

The proposed policy in Becker states, “Classrooms must be free of any personal bias or non-school materials favoring any particular group, political ideology, favored class or promoting controversial issues … Neither political indoctrination or the teaching of inherently divisive concepts will be allowed.”

The school board decided the policy banning “divisive concepts” needed legal review after it received multiple letters from organizations, including the state teachers’ union Education Minnesota, which threatened litigation if the district enacted the policy.

ACLU Minnesota also sent a letter to the school board and said the policy would create an unwelcoming environment for women and girls, LGBT students and students of color.

“At best it will chill, and at worse it will censor classroom teaching and open discussion about the systemic barriers and discrimination people of color and other marginalized groups still face in this country across our institutions,” ACLU Minnesota wrote. 

Back in March, the Becker School Board drew protesters after it allowed an anti-LGBT presentation at one of its meetings. 

The board invited the Child Protection League, which the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed an “anti-LGBTQ group,” to provide a presentation to its members after a pro-LGBT group spoke at a previous meeting. The board said it was attempting to hear all arguments surrounding LGBT policies in schools.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.