Mankato Area Public Schools board addresses allegations of systemic racism

Mankato Area Public Schools board addresses allegations of systemic racism

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Mankato Area Public Schools board member Abdi Sabrie accused fellow district leaders of discrimination this week, saying in his four years on the board he has been excluded from pictures, board governance and officer elections.

He shared an image from the school district's website that shows the school board members and superintendent.

Mankato Area Public School Board member Abdi Sabrie claimed in a Facebook post on Tuesday that this image, which was previously used on the school board's website, represents racism that he experiences in the boardroom. The school board members in this photo include, from left to right: School Board Chair Darren Wacker, Treasurer Judi Brandon, Clerk Sara Hansen, Vice Chair Jodi Sapp, Kristi Schuck, Ann Hendricks, and Superintendent Paul Peterson.
Mankato Area Public School Board member Abdi Sabrie claimed in a Facebook post on Tuesday that this image, which was previously used on the school board's website, represents racism that he experiences in the boardroom. The school board members in this photo include, from left to right: School Board Chair Darren Wacker, Treasurer Judi Brandon, Clerk Sara Hansen, Vice Chair Jodi Sapp, Kristi Schuck, Ann Hendricks, and Superintendent Paul Peterson. (Source: Abdi Sabrie/Facebook)

All but Sabrie are pictured.

The board chair has since responded with an apology adding there is much more to do and a long road ahead.

Friday evening, Sabrie and the other board members held a special meeting to address his allegations of systemic racism.

“What I hope to see in the future, a board governance that’s transparent, inclusive, respectful of all board members, a board that deliberates," Sabrie said.

Superintendent Paul Peterson responded with plans moving forward.

“Key board work as all of you know is for us to rededicate ourselves to the community and outreach that we all do, but to make sure that that outreach and engagement is with multiple perspectives at the table,” he said. “Moving toward a facilitated approach to dialogue is something that appears to be important, and there are several options for us to consider that.”

Sabrie also suggested utilizing the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, a department that aims to peacefully mediate differences and settle disputes.

“That we use the services of the Bureau of Mediation Services to resolve our differences and choose a better path for the future," Sabrie said.

Other board members also had the chance to speak Friday evening.

“This is our work right here," board member Kristi Schuck said. “It looks like the work of a school district that is enhanced by the work of shared and diverse voices at the board table," she continued. "It looks like an ongoing dialogue that seven individuals have.”

“I should have seen a large flashing light in my head telling me that strain on our board was much more severe and warranted much more urgent action,” Clerk Sara Hansen said in response to the photo. “I don’t know which agency to use, but I agree with what Abdi said earlier. We as a board are unable to work through the hurt and the strain without outside guidance and facilitation." She continued, “So I recommend we consider options for bringing in a consultant to help us with our board relations, and specifically in the area of equity and race.”

The school board has since changed the picture on its homepage.

This banner replaced the image of the members of the Mankato Area Public School Board shortly after Abdi Sabrie's original Facebook post claimed the board and its previous image represent racism.
This banner replaced the image of the members of the Mankato Area Public School Board shortly after Abdi Sabrie's original Facebook post claimed the board and its previous image represent racism. (Source: Mankato Area Public Schools)

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