Showing “20 Shocking China Facts You Don’t Know” Video in Class Led to Firing of Minnesota Teacher,
From a decision by arbitrator Stephen F. Befort in Peterson v. Indep. School. Dist. No. 244, Chisago Lakes handed down Sept. 21 but posted a few weeks ago on Westlaw (see also this article in the Chisago County Press [Jeff Norton]):
Jeremy Peterson is a continuing contract teacher employed by the Chisago Lakes School District. He has worked for the School District for seventeen years and primarily teaches 8th grade social studies and geography classes….
Peterson has received generally positive evaluations of his teaching performance. The only blemish on his prior record is a non-disciplinary letter of directives in 2012 which the School District issued in response to Peterson having shown students a video containing a political advertisement for a presential candidate. The letter directed Peterson to refrain from expressing his personal political views to students and to demonstrate sound professional judgment in his future teaching activities.
During the 2020-21 school year, one of the last units taught by Peterson was on China. On May 27, 2021 Peterson showed a YouTube video toward the end of class that was titled, “20 Shocking China Facts You Don’t Know.”
The video presented information about China and its culture in a very negative light. The topics covered included such matters as eating cats, media censorship, and “leftover” women. The video presented information of dubious validity in a sensationalized manner that played on negative stereotypes. Peterson stopped the video after the 18th fact, sparing the students from information about virginity restoration and a dog meat festival. At that point, Peterson simply stated that the video was “interesting” and dismissed the class.
[The video appears to be this one:]
A Chinese-American student in the class found the video to be particularly upsetting. According to the testimony of her parents, the student went to a study hall following the class where she broke down and cried. When the student’s father picked her up from school later that day, the student stated that she had a “terrible” day and attributed it to the video about China. Upon arriving home, the student told her mother that the video made her feel ashamed, and she again began to cry. Later that day, the parents watched the video on YouTube and believed it to be inappropriate as a presentation to 8th graders. The student’s father testified that it is not clear whether the incident will have any long-term impact on the student.
The student’s parents filed a complaint about the video with the School District….
The school board voted to fire Peterson, among other things for “immoral conduct” (on the theory that, among other things, “it is discriminatory, reinforces stereotypes, and is highly sexuali
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