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Consider #MeToo: Red Wing won’t back down on sexual harassment definition

Although the Minnesota School Boards Association has asked the Red Wing School Board to rescind two resolutions for consideration by all members, the district has decided to press on with one of them.

The resolutions have to do with changing the language in state statute related to sexual orientation and sexual harassment.

School Board members decided to rescind their resolution related to sexual orientation, voting 6-1 Monday night. The district no longer asks that the MSBA include "gender identity and expression" in statute. Board member Pam Roe voted against rescinding the local resolution.

PREVIOUSLY: Sexual harassment case prompts Red Wing to revise district policy

In a letter to Superintendent Karsten Anderson, MSBA Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind said the policies in place already reflect the change requested.

The MSBA also asked the board to rescind a resolution to redefine sexual harassment, saying that employers would be held more accountable, according to local Vice-chair Heidi Jones.

Jones said MSBA told the district that the language would lower or lessen standards and would have school boards stuck dealing with more complaints.

Jones, who sits on the MSBA Legislative and Policy Committee, said she feels the Red Wing School Board should stay committed to it stance even though the MSBA will likely vote it down when the time comes.

Board members argued in their resolution submission to the MSBA that numerous examples of misconduct, including many highlighted in large part of the #MeToo movement, don't meet the same standards highlighted by the current definition.

"I am not in favor of withdrawing the sexual harassment one because I think this district has made a commitment and I want to see that through," Jones said. "Both to represent the board and, personally, I think that's the right thing to do too."

Roe said she didn't understand why the MSBA would view a definition change as lessening, arguing it would actually be the opposite effect.

School Board member Mike Christensen said the MSBA believes the definition change will leave the burden of sexual harassment decisions to the school board.

School Board member Bethany Borgschatz said that, even though the end of her term is coming up, she hopes board members will continue their efforts even if this fails at the MSBA level — if not through MSBA, then by looking at procedures inside the district.

"We need to look at how we handle this internally and I don't think that we made some good decisions," Borgschatz said. "And I think that needs to be addressed."

There was no action taken by the board, which means the sexual harassment resolution will continue. The issue can be moved to floor, she said, where she hopes for support from other districts plus further discuss Dec. 1 during the MSBA Delegate Assembly.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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