MN teacher questions Somali class attendance, gets punished

An East Grand Forks, Minn., teacher sent an email criticizing some students in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class for not showing up regularly for class. So the school district suspended him for two weeks? Why? The school district won’t say.

The email from teacher Bryan Perkins estimated that 30 percent of Somali students have poor attendance and that teachers “must physically stop to re-teach … most of what (ESL students) missed because they are not capable of reading and interpreting assignments for themselves. And, in many cases, this needs to be done immediately at the expense of the other 25 students in the room.”

“So, I am asking at what point of falling behind … are these kids better off in an ESL room all day versus half-day immersion?” the email, which found its way to social media, asks. “And at what point are the rights of our other students being taken advantage of?

“It seems that my ESL students of all nationality are doing ‘OK’ if their attendance is good,” Perkins said.

Why should that get a teacher suspended?

Superintendent David Pace told the Grand Forks Herald that Perkins is being investigated but refused to say why. The newspaper filed an open records request but the school district didn’t fulfill it.

On Wednesday, about 50 students protested the suspension at East Grand Forks Senior High School, the Herald says.

Senior Jamila Aden, one of the protesters who said she was 7 years old when she had to learn English as a second language, said she felt students needed to show their support for Perkins by walking around the school on Wednesday. She said Perkins’ email was not racist but was reasonable and inspirational.

“For him to speak out his mind, it actually shows us that we can do it at the same time,” Aden said. “If he gets suspended for speaking his mind and for the freedom of speech, then we are all going to get suspended for that.”

Perkins is due back in class today.