St. Paul, MN – The Pioneer Press is reporting a St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) teacher was suspended 15 days’ pay for discussing Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and other issues during his math class at Como Park High School in St. Paul.
Bruce Ringaman started teaching in SPPS in 1998. SPPS disciplined him after investigating complaints of Ringaman allegedly making students uncomfortable by discussing his views on the election and other current events during his math class.
In a report obtained by the Pioneer Press, SPPS outlined a litany of actions by Ringaman that the district determined were “disruptive, disrespectful and offensive … and is completely unacceptable and unbecoming for a teacher,” and had created a hostile learning environment at Como.
According to the report obtained by the Pioneer Press, the suspension stems from Ringaman’s classroom conduct on Nov. 14, 2016, in which he conducted a circle time as encouraged by SPPS restorative practices policy.
The policy explains restorative practices are meant to “Build healthy relationships between educators and students; reduce, prevent, and improve harmful behavior; Repair harm and restore positive relationships; Resolve conflict, holding individuals and groups accountable; and address and discuss the needs of the school community.” (SPPS)
The report outlines that Ringaman opted to teach no mathematics that day, but instead had his students go through exercises to discuss the negatives to the presidential candidates as reported by the media, showed a video of a white man being violently attacked by black man who believed the white male was a Trump supporter as well as playing a song by the band, The Brillance, called “Brother.”
As was shown in the investigation report, Ringaman’s defended his actions as an effort to get kids to think about how they make judgments about other people, including those who voted for candidates with whom they disagreed.
The report also notes Ringaman saying he is a Christian who believed in marriage being between one man and one woman, and that his pro-life beliefs were part of the reason he voted for Donald Trump.
Ringaman also allegedly discussed Black Lives Matter during the circle time, indicating while he believed the group did some good things, the riots and other violence surrounding the BLM movement were harmful to the group’s message.
In the report, Ringaman admitted that before he told his classes that he was pro-life that he did not take into consideration the possibility that any of his students had had an abortion.
SPPS determined that Ringaman’s conduct placed “unreasonable burdens upon the student’s’ right to learn, creating an unsafe, offensive or hostile learning environment, and obstructing the District’s ability to provide the public services with which it is charged to provide.”
The disciplinary measures given to Ringaman includes completing a Beyond Diversity training, “keeping conversations with students positive, pleasant and caring”; and refraining from angry, sarcastic, condescending, rude or offensive behavior.
The Pioneer Press reports that Ringaman “was placed on administrative leave Nov. 15 while the school district investigated a complaint against him. He’s been reassigned as a substitute teacher for the rest of the school year, according to district spokeswoman Toya Stewart Downey.”
According to the Pioneer Press, other allegations against Ringaman were made by a parent who claimed that he told his class that “he supports building a wall on the Mexican border and said that blacks should ‘go back to Africa.’” Those allegations were not included in the investigation report received from SPPS by the Pioneer Press.
A SPPS staff page contains photos of Ringaman with his wife and young son, whom, according to the post on the page, the couple adopted from the Houston area when he was three days old.
A 2014 TC Daily Planet article discussed SPPS’s new “Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies” (PBIS), which are part of the “Restorative Practices” policies of SPPS. Bruce Ringaman was interviewed for the article, which contained interviews and viewpoints from a variety of educators and staff in the SPPS. Ringaman was one of the teachers who criticized the new policy as not having enough support for “teachers who struggle with discipline issues, and that simply focusing on the positive doesn’t work.” Another teacher, Roy Magnuson agreed and said that “the district is allowing the most disruptive, the least safe students to completely dominate the entire educational experience.”
Magnuson was also one teacher who came to Ringaman’s defense, telling the Pioneer Press, “Ringaman was discussing politics in a math class because Como is working to implement the principles of restorative practices this school year. Ringaman has sought to build respect and trust with students through weekly conversations. Magnuson said, ‘It is possible in this case that it didn’t work as intended, but it’s going to be hard to ask teachers to take risks when the consequences for misspeaking, being misunderstood or taking a controversial viewpoint lead to what happened with Bruce.’”
Read the SPPS investigation here.
Updated 1/25/2017 5:23pm