Daily Digest: Pledge debate draws crowd

Welcome to Tuesday. Here’s your Digest to get the day started.

1. Passionate debate over the Pledge. After a fiery meeting that lasted more than an hour Monday night, the St. Louis Park City Council is no closer to deciding whether to go back to saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of council meetings. Council members in St. Louis Park, which borders Minneapolis, had voted late last month to stop reciting the pledge at the start of its biweekly meetings. Demonstrators outside City Hall Monday evening didn’t wait for the council meeting to begin before making their voices heard. Dozens of people dressed in red, white and blue, carrying American flags, chanted the Pledge of Allegiance as cars drove by. Tom Blondell had driven almost two hours from his home in Rochester, Minn. He said the council’s earlier decision to stop reciting the pledge before its regular meetings was unpatriotic. “I think you either pledge allegiance to the country you come to,” he said, “or your allegiance is elsewhere. And that doesn’t work.” (MPR News)

2. Minneapolis chief endeavors to build trust. When Medaria Arradondo became chief of the Minneapolis police, the department was going through a turbulent time. Justine Ruszczyk had just been killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, and the debate on body camera use was in full swing. Having been a Minneapolis police officer for more than 30 years, Arradondo had built strong relationships in the department and out in the community. Many thought he could be the change they wanted to see, and Arradondo knew there was work to be done. “I knew we needed to do two things,” Arradondo told Brandt Williams on MPR News. “One was we needed to truly transform the department and the culture of the MPD, and the other one was specifically rooted in trust. We’re an organization that’s 150 years old. We’ve done a lot of great things in that time but, self-admittedly, we’ve harmed communities in those 150 years.” (MPR News)

3. Following correction officer deaths, assaults by inmates down. The number of inmates who were convicted for assaulting corrections officers at Minnesota state prisons decreased over the past year, following a record surge in violence in the 12 months prior. There were 156 discipline convictions for assaults on prison staff in the 12-month period ending June 30, according to new data from the state Department of Corrections. That’s down 17 percent from the 188 assault convictions logged the year before but still much higher than previous years. DOC officials say corrections officers have been on high alert since two of their colleagues died in the line of duty last year. Their deaths brought calls for more staffing at state prisons, which are now being answered with the help of state funding. Corrections officer Joseph Gomm was allegedly bludgeoned to death by an inmate at the Stillwater prison last July. Two months later, corrections officer Joe Parise died of a medical emergency after responding to an attack on a colleague at the Oak Park Heights facility. “One of the things I think that happens after incidents like last summer is that there is kind of a general, broader sense of awareness from an officer safety standpoint,” said DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell. “There’s also a tendency to be more diligent in terms of … watching out for one another.” (St. Cloud Times)

4. Some districts with discipline disparities balk at agreements with state. This past school year, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has monitored discipline disparities in 41 school districts and charter schools that have entered into agreements to address identified disparities. Forty-three districts were notified in late 2017 that they were under investigation for allegedly violating the state Human Rights Act. School leaders from the 41 that entered agreements convened four times over the course of the school year to share best practices and dig into the role that implicit bias plays in how suspensions and expulsions for subjective offenses, like disorderly conduct, are doled out to students of color and students with disabilities. Per their agreements with the Department of Human Rights, participation in this group — a diversion committee, run in partnership with the state Department of Education — is mandatory.  The department, however, has yet to persuade leaders of the state’s largest district, Anoka-Hennepin schools, to enter into an agreement.  According to the superintendent, “Our school board just came off a five-year consent agreement with the federal government and they were gun shy to join into another agreement without understanding: What is the agreement?” said Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent David Law. (MinnPost)

5. Omar’s “complicated” backstory. Rep. Ilhan Omar stepped to the edge of the stage in front of about 400 Richfield High School students and squinted into the lights. More than two decades had passed since she and her family fled civil war in Somalia, first for a Kenyan refugee camp and then America. Now she was 36, one of the youngest members of Congress and the first lawmaker to wear a hijab in the legislative body’s long history. She was also at the center of a contentious fight over American identity that pitted her against the president and, even, some in her own party. At issue wasn’t a piece of legislation or an election. It was something bigger — a battle over the American story — who was entitled to tell it and how it would be told. In Omar’s version, America wasn’t the bighearted country that saved her from a brutal war and a bleak refugee camp. It wasn’t a meritocracy that helped her attend college or vaulted her into Congress. Instead, it was the country that had failed to live up to its founding ideals, a place that had disappointed her and so many immigrants, refugees and minorities like her. (Washington Post)

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