Hibbing School Coalition Calls for Transparency, Policy Change

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Concerned citizens called for transparency Wednesday as the Hibbing School District continues to work through issues with its former assistant principal once accused of sexual harassment.

Along with transparency was a request for policy change when it comes to formal complaints against the district.

This all comes as members of the Hibbing Coalition for Safe and Accountable Schools says too much power at the top is directly affecting students.

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

It was a full-house at Hibbing’s School Board meeting full of questions and concerns.

“Got many emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, wanting to know if we knew and we didn’t know,” said Melissa Scaia, leader of the Hibbing Coalition for Safe and Accountable Schools.

What the coalition said it didn’t know about was a proposed plan submitted to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on how to bring back former Hibbing High School Assistant Principal Jac Fleming.

“The idea has been to make sure that students feel safe and feel comfortable and staff feel safe and comfortable,” said Bob Bestul, interim superintendent of Hibbing Public Schools.

Fleming was accused of discriminating against female students, but was cleared of any wrongdoing after an appeal.

Bestul said he recently held a meeting with teachers laying out the proposal that includes Fleming’s office near the weight room, administrative duties and no contact with female students.

“As long as we put the safety and concern of the kids first, then we’ll be fine. I think that’s what we need to do in this situation and every situation,” said Bestul.

Bestul said his intention was not to withhold information from the coalition.

“I mean obviously that’s never works. I don’t think there’s ever been a case where you can hide anything. Sooner or later people are going to find out and that’s a good thing,” Bestul said.

Lack of transparency hasn’t been the coalition’s only issue with the board.

“We think it’s the structure that’s flawed,” said Scaia.

It’s also not happy with the district’s complaint policy.

“Frankly, the policy, as I can tell, is the template policy from the Minnesota School Board Association, and mostly those organizations provide the minimum. We’re asking to go beyond the minimum,” said Scaia.

The coalition wants complaints to be submitted in writing and, if deemed serious, be investigated externally.

“A lot of history is brought up and there are some people that are a little untrusting of the district at this time, and I do understand that. I guess my point is, at this point on, we can solve some of those problems,” said Bestul.

The school board plans to review a final draft of policy proposals in the near future.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is still evaluating the work proposal for Fleming.
 

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