According to WDAZ, a public teacher in East Grand Forks has been suspended, and while the reason for the suspension isn’t being announced officially, indications are that it has to do with an email he signed regarding the attendance of refugee students.
WDAZ spoke with Perkins by phone. He said he is not allowed to comment, but did say he is being made to look bad by the administration.
Perkins would not say if the investigation is about an email he reportedly signed earlier this month regarding the attendance of some Somalian students, and its impact on the curriculum for the rest of his class.
Via my good friend Jay Thomas at WDAY AM970 in Fargo, here’s a screenshot that’s allegedly of Perkins’ email provided by someone in the Grand Forks area. This image has been floating around somewhat on social media. It’s not clear at this time who Perkins sent the email to.
Reading that, I see nothing that’s worth suspending Perkins over. He’s concerned about ESL (English as a Second Language) students who he identifies as mostly being Somali having a problem with attendance and commitment to learning. I take this email as a teacher trying to find a way to both serve the Somali students better while simultaneously not impeding the progress of other students.
In other words, Perkins comes off as a professional trying to do his job. What’s wrong with that? Other than the fact that refugee resettlement is a hot-button political topic, and that resettlement supporters will not tolerate anything that even hints at criticism without making accusations of racism?
If this email is the reason why Perkins got suspended that is a terrible injustice.
I’ve written extensively about the tensions over refugee resettlement in the Red River Valley area. Local officials, including school officials, have spoken to me off the record about frustrations related to an utter lack of transparency from the federal government and Lutheran Social Services which manages the resettlement program in North Dakota (though East Grand Forks is in Minnesota). They say they are required to accommodate refugee students, who manner of challenges not the least of which is language barriers, with little or no notice.
More broadly critics of the resettlements say that refugees are disproportionately dependent on public assistance programs and contribute more than other citizens to crime. It’s hard to discern if these accusations are true because neither the federal government nor Lutheran Social Services will release data about crime or public assistance use among refugees.
And that’s the problem. There is little transparency for the impact refugees have on the communities they’re settling in, and local officials who are tasked with serving the refugee populations are afraid to speak out lest they put their careers at risk. Which is the situation Perkins finds himself in.
UPDATE 3:17pm: It appears as though Perkins will be returning to the classroom tomorrow:
UPDATE: EGF teacher Bryan Perkins will return to work tomorrow morning. Watch for details tonight on #VNL at 5:00.
— Valley News Live (@ValleyNewsLive) October 21, 2015
There had been rumors of students staging a walkout if Perkins didn’t return.