The Faribault school board on Monday, December 5. Credit: Star Tribune screenshot of Faribault school board via YouTube

This story comes to you from the Star Tribune through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

The Faribault, Minnesota, school board on Monday accepted a state grant that funds drug abuse prevention efforts for Black, Indigenous, and other students of color—a measure that previously stalled when some members claimed accepting the money amounted to discrimination against white pupils.

Board Member Richard Olson cast the sole dissenting vote. As he did during the November 21 meeting, Olson objected to the district accepting the grant by arguing that “it does not help all students.”

“This will pass. I know that. But it does not have my support,” he said.

About 60 percent of students in the Faribault district are children of color. About 28 percent are Latino and 25 percent are Black.

Monday’s meeting drew enough attendees that district officials had to set up an overflow room to accommodate everyone. Six attendees urged the board to adopt the $1.1 million grant during public comment, some of them taking board members to task for their previous hesitance to accept the money.

“This should be a no-brainer,” said Martha Brown, a substitute teacher for the district.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the board’s previous stalemate on the grant funding shook his faith in the district’s ability to serve students of color.

“I not only urge you to vote for it, but I’m also concerned as we move forward that you’re not keenly interested in making sure all of our students are successful,” he said.

Before the vote, Superintendent Jamie Bente also pressed board members to accept the grant and addressed concerns that programs it funds would exclude white students.

“I will go for any grant that helps any student. And if it leaves out a certain group, then we will look for money to help that group as well,” he said.


Eder Campuzano covers statewide education for the Star Tribune.