Amy Hewett-Olatunde, a teacher of English Language Learning at the LEAP High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, was removed from the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) after making comments on Facebook that were harshly critical of President Trump.
State-Wide Recognition: Just over three years ago, Hewett-Olatunde was selected as the Minnesota Teacher of the Year by Education Minnesota, the state’s teacher union. Eighteen months later, when the Minnesota legislature reorganized teacher licensing and created the PELSB, Hewett-Olatunde was named as one of the original 11 members and appointed interim chair.
What She Said: On January 12, CNN reported that President Trump had referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” in a private meeting. Hewett-Olatunde, whose students are primarily immigrants and non-native English speakers, responded angrily on her personal Facebook feed: “He is not worthy, nor are his puppet masters, of human dignity. He is the s***hole, and we should line up to take a dump on him.”
Since the original post appears to have been deleted, it’s not clear whether Hewett-Olatunde spelled out the epithet or self-censored. Nonetheless, the import of her comments was crystal clear.
Everything Is Political These Days: Hewett-Olatunde’s appointment to a full four-year term on the PELSB was initially confirmed on May 20 by a 34-33 vote, with one Republican, Senator Carla Nelson, voting with Democratic Senators. However, Senator Nelson told her GOP colleagues that she had voted “aye” by mistake because she was distracted, and moved to reconsider the appointment. The second time, Hewett-Olatunde’s re-appointment failed 33-34 on a party line vote.
Senators Eric Pratt and Paul Utke, who led the charge against Hewett-Olatunde, said that they were offended by her remarks but had broader concerns. In particular, the senators said that Hewett-Olatunde had frequently criticized a new licensing law the PELSB was responsible for implementing. Senator Pratt told a local paper that “When you look at the body of some of the things she’s said and done, I find it hard to believe that she in fact could execute the law as intended.”
She’s Still Swinging: Hewett-Olatunde once again took to Facebook the day after the vote, and her tone remained defiant:
The GOP voted me off last night in a second round of voting when Senator Nelson flipped her vote. Senator Pratt and Senator Utke were at the forefront of this. This may be the first time this has happened, and it was all based on posts you have all read about 45. Not about Republican or Democrat. Not about my credentials or two decades spent in the classroom. About a man who calls undocumented immigrants animals and deems certain countries as inferior to this one. I can and will never stay silent, because silence enables. A true advocate stands up and stands with, even in the face of adversaries. To educate. To advocate. To elevate. Thank you to the senators who saw me for who I am and not the narrative that was created about me. Your votes are enough for me to hold my head high.
And by the way, Senator Pratt, my name is Dr. Amy Hewett-Olatunde, not Ms. Olatunde.