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Local clergy address contentious Rochester Public School Board meeting

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Local faith leaders are calling for peace and equity for all children after a recent contentious Rochester Public School Board meeting.

The letter from dozen of faith leaders posted on the Isaiah website this week condemns some of the behaviors of people who spoke at the school board meeting on July 13.

In the letter, the clergy said that they were particularly dismayed that the "The Lords Prayer" was used as a "weapon," as people reportedly shouted it aggressively at the meeting.

The letter also said:

"We are deeply concerned about how the people who spoke misunderstand the school district’s mission to provide every young person in Rochester with an education that enables them to think critically, evaluate evidence, and draw reasoned conclusions. These skills are vital to our community, nation, and world."

Pastor Nancy Wheeler Handlon with Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester said adults need to set an example for children. She said that differences in opinions can be discussed in a peaceful manner.

She added that the point of the letter was to drive home the fact that equity in school for all children should be everyone's goal. She said that their comments aren't about pushing Critical Race Theory, an academic construct that examines the role race plays in the country's legal and social systems.

"Our children of color are often treated differently than white children," Wheeler Handlon said. "I say that not only as a pastor, but also as the mother of two black children. Critical Race theory is something that's isn't part of the curriculum. It's not appropriate for youngsters or even high school students. Critical Race Theory is something that's taught only at the graduate level. To us, this is about equity and inclusion. That's what we think the focus needs to be on."

She said the pastors are brainstorming ideas about how they can be mediators in discussions moving forward. She said one possible idea is to be attend RPS Board meetings on a regular basis.

The complete letter is available to read here.

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Megan Zemple

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