An Update on MCEE and the Continuing Fight for Equality in Our Schools

Scott Sorenson, Managing Editor, Student Life

            As the school year progresses, Minnetonka Coalition for Equitable Education (MCEE)’s Instagram page continues to share its message about the need for equality and change in the Minnetonka Public School System. The school board, MCEE says, has taken gradual but tangible action.


            This fight started back in July, when, pressed by the student body, School Board Chair Katie Becker and Superintendent Dennis Peterson made a statement acknowledging the presence of discrimination in the Minnetonka Public School District.


           In response,MCEE officially laid out eleven imperatives, or key goals, that they demanded the school board meet. These changes included an anti-racism statement from the board; more specific and impactful hiring processes for black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); staff and student education on diversity and microaggressions; and a less Eurocentric curriculum. 


Education remains a large concern for the student advocates. They believe that Minnetonka’s curriculum marginalizes diverse voices via a lack of representation in authorship and coverage in history classes. The core student leaders of MCEE have repeatedly cited the use of racial slurs at MHS and MME as evidence of ignorance of the impact these words have on students, and they have restated their belief that teacher education regarding the use of these words would help to curtail these offences.


            On August 3rd, MCEE representatives met with Becker and Peterson to present their petition outlining the coalition’s imperatives, which by that time had garnered over five thousand signatures.


            In response to that petition, as well as to continuing protests from the student body, the Minnetonka school board instituted School Board District Goal #2. This commitment to equality specifically addressed MCEE’s concerns about things like student dress code, controversial curriculum content and higher hiring rates of BIPOC teachers. 


While this objective encompassed six of MCEE’s eleven imperatives (a huge achievement, to be sure), school board chair Katie Becker claimed that the goal was not formed as a result of the coalition’s demands, but because “it was the right thing to do.” Nonetheless, Becker also said that the testimonies from “a number of students and alumni over the summer did play a part in [the board’s] decision to implement Goal [2].”


            Even the agreed upon changes, however, weren’t fully realized. On October 1, the school board did review its dress code with special attention to diversity and inclusion, according to their previous promises. 


The MCEE Instagram page, however, released an open letter to the school board on the same day to express concern that “the board already has missed several of [its other] deadlines.”


            The school board’s response, except for their adoption of Goal #2, has indeed been rather slow, and its commitments rather vague. 


In a joint letter from Becker and Peterson last July, they stated that they “are listening and agree that there is work we must do to make our school district a welcoming and inclusive environment for [everyone].” Becker and Peterson didn’t get much more specific than that, however.


            According to club founder Lena Pak, ‘21, MCEE wants open condemnation of racism and support of Black Lives Matter, a movement for which they held a march back in September. 


Pak also said that MCEE wants “strong language statements that will really make it clear where their stance is on this issue.” 


            Even as MCEE fights for every last one of its eleven goals, its members are grateful for what they’ve already been able to accomplish.


Students, staff and paras will now be required to attend one diversity education session per semester, which is monumental progress toward combating the lack of awareness that student leaders believe has spawned much of Minnetonka’s past racial friction in the first place. 


Minnetonka is also currently reviewing five district policies pertaining to diversity and inclusivity, and the board has committed to hiring more LGBTQ+ and BIPOC teachers. Many of MCEE’s core principles are finally being put into action, and the students’ voices are being heard.

“[The district’s] goal is to ensure that all students feel they belong, are valued and are supported,” said Becker. “We want each student to […] graduate prepared to thrive in a diverse and changing world.”