The Pequot Lakes School Board will no longer host a listening session Monday, April 26, to gather public input in response to a video narrated by Superintendent Chris Lindholm regarding diversity and inclusion in the school district.
The video garnered public backlash earlier this month.
Instead, the board will now seek input electronically, on the advice of legal counsel and the Minnesota State School Board Association.
“The board has a duty to avoid creating a situation that presents potential legal liability to the district,” Board Chair Kim Bolz-Andolshek said during the Monday, April 19, school board meeting.
“It is our attorney’s opinion that holding a meeting where several hundred people may attend to voice concerns involving employees and students would not be consistent with this duty," she said. "Also, we are concerned that presenters will make statements about employees or students, which identifies particular employees or students by name or otherwise. Doing so presents a risk of liability, including for possible violation of state and federal data privacy law.”
Instead, the district seeks input in written or electronic form, and will take input from Monday, April 26, until 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 28. Results will be presented during the board’s work session Monday, May 10.
The link to the input form will be posted to the district's main website.
“We want to hear from the community but it needs to be in a safe and responsible manner … I know the entire board, me included, wants to get public input, but we need to do it in a way which is safe,” Bolz-Andolshek said.
The video that drew criticism is one piece of a larger effort put together by Voice for Rural Resilience, with support from the Region Five Development Commission and the Department of Transformation. Lindholm has said the video’s intent was to highlight and celebrate the work being done in rural communities in their efforts to be more welcoming communities.
The SEED Program -- which stands for “Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity” -- was at the crux of Lindholm’s video and has also drawn questions.
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.