BECKER – The Becker School District is being sued by the Becker Education Association, the union representing the district’s teachers.

The lawsuit, filed in Sherburne County Court Thursday, claims a policy approved by the Becker School Board on May 2nd violates the state constitution’s right to free speech as well as several other state laws.

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The policy stems from a special school board meeting March 14th, where the board invited speakers to offer an opposing view to a previous presentation regarding support of transgender students. According to the facts presented in the lawsuit:

  • Some staff members spoke with the media about student mental health.
  • Certain school board members were displeased by the activities of students and staff, and gave the Superintendent direction to prevent similar expressions on or about June 20th.
  • The Communication plan was approved on May 2nd, 2022. Among the provisions: “employees may not make statements to the media, individuals, or entities, outside the district relating to student or personnel matters”.
  • A staff member who violates the policy will be subject to discipline and adverse employment actions.

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the district from enforcing the policy against the staff.

In the lawsuit, the Becker Education Association points out several concerns about the policy.

  • The Minnesota Constitution states “the liberty of the press shall forever remain inviolate, and all persons may freely speak, write and publish their sentiments on all subjects”.
  • The policy is in violation of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.
  • The policy’s ban on anything other than ‘positive’ communication prohibits the communication of discrimination against students and staff to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
  • The policy’s ban does not comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act due to the threat of discipline for reporting concerns of discrimination.
  • The plan does not comply with the Maltreatment of Minors act, including encouraging staff to violate that law.

The complaint continues: “Because the District’s Communications Plan bans maltreatment reports, it subjects students to the possibility of uninterrupted child abuse and requires staff to choose between their employment and their statutory obligation as mandated reporters,”

According to a news release from the Minnesota Education Association, the co-presidents of the Becker Education Association, Jason Baune and Ben Pany, had no additional comment about the lawsuit because any such comment to the news media might reflect negatively on the district. Such a comment to the news media is currently prohibited and could expose the staff members to disciplinary action.

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