Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A St. Paul teacher is on paid leave after being accused of racial discrimination in his own classroom.
Parents of some black students said their children have faced discrimination for months at the Heights Community School.
Latasha Tolbert said sixth grade teacher Tim Olmsted told her daughter that she’d be standing on the corner with a sign begging for money on the expressway.
“He told the whole entire class that it is easier for him to teach rich white folks than poor black people,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert said the discrimination started in her daughter’s class months ago. At the time, five of the students in Olmsted’s class were black. Tolbert said all of them were singled out at some point for the color of their skin.
Meg Kane is an education attorney representing three of the families involved. She said none of the kids have been in trouble at school before.
The children told Kane that all of them had to sit at the back of the class. Kane said Olmsted called them “fat, black and stupid,” and said such things as: “You will never amount to anything” and “You only have one parent.”
Kane said Olmsted was denigrating those students, not teaching them. She has sent a demand letter to the school district asking for Olmsted and the principal to be fired. If nothing is done in 10 days, she says she will file a complaint in state court.
Tolbert said she took her concerns to the principal more than a dozen times, but nothing changed. So she moved her daughter into another class.
She says the district needs to deal with diversity, and she wants her daughter’s former teacher to leave.
“There’s no need for you to even work with children, because color is everywhere,” Tolbert said. “It’s everywhere.”
A district spokesperson said Olmsted has been on paid leave for more than two weeks while the St. Paul School District investigates. The district’s spokesperson said because the incident is a personnel matter, it can’t comment any further.
Olmsted did not immediately return WCCO-TV’s phone calls.