Minnesota high school equity specialist defends looting, arson

“Let’s burn the building down, and then did you see what happened? We got a reaction … We got some change now, we got somebody’s attention now,” the specialist said.

Background: Elk River High School/Facebook. Left: Troy Johnson/Elk River High School.

Concerned parents spoke out at a Monday school board meeting following the release of a video that shows an equity specialist in the district condoning looting and rioting.

A video recorded at Elk River High School during a ninth-grade class went viral last month after a parent posted it to a community Facebook group. The video has since been taken down from the group. In the video, a copy of which was obtained by Alpha News, an equity specialist who works for the school can be heard explaining his perspective on why people loot and burn buildings after being asked by a student why riots happen.

WCCO identified the educator as Troy Johnson, an equity specialist at Elk River High School. In the video, Johnson said people riot to get a “reaction.”

“Let’s burn the building down, and then did you see what happened? We got a reaction … We got some change now, we got somebody’s attention now,” Johnson said.

Protesting police treatment of black people has been going on for years, he said, but now, with technology, it’s easier to bring attention to the issue.

“We’ve told people, we’ve said, ‘hey this wasn’t right.’ Now, luckily, we got technology, we got the phone to record,” Johnson said.

The people who can make changes are often white people who own property that others pay rent for, Johnson told the class. The way to make changes in society is to get those people to care, according to Johnson.

“Let’s burn their stuff down. We’ll get them to say something to their friends, say, ‘hey, buddy, we need to figure out what’s going on here. These guys are losing their lives at a very high rate,’” Johnson said, referring to black lives.

The equity specialist also promoted the idea that looting is doing good for the black community.

“[Looting] is doing a lot for us, for the black community. We’re raising awareness [for] those people who don’t live in the black community. You don’t live in the black community. You guys live in Elk River,” Johnson told the class. “We’re raising your awareness about what’s going on in our neighborhood that you don’t live in.”

Johnson has been an equity specialist with the Elk River district, ISD 728, for 14 years, working in two high schools and two middle schools, according to the district’s website. Equity specialists work with the district to “promote culturally competent learning environments.”

Parents spoke out at a school board meeting Monday, citing concerns about critical race theory, harassment of students who don’t agree with Black Lives Matter’s views, and the lack of instruction on critical thinking in the district.

“Our children should be taught critical thinking through the study of data and facts … versus simply reacting to explosive rhetoric that incites emotional reactions from impressionable young minds,” one parent said. “Why not teach our children to critically think about these statements regarding racial disparity versus spew violence as a solution?”

Several parents also raised concerns about an April 19 walkout against police brutality, during which many students wore Black Lives Matter apparel. Parents said students who did not attend the rally have been bullied and harassed, and some have even chosen to distance learn as a result of this treatment from other students.

Parents were not made aware of the walkout until after it happened, someone close to the district told Alpha News. She also made note that Johnson could have been involved in the walkout preparations.

Parents are not concerned about diversity and inclusion instruction, but rather the views of Black Lives Matter being expressed in the classroom.