Edina officials will revise a recently approved race and equity report after learning that one of the incidents mentioned in the report probably did not occur in the recent past.
The controversy led the City Council last week to ask staffers to review the report and simplify comments that contained what Council Member Kevin Staunton called “inadvertent identifiers.”
But the co-chairman of the task force that issued the report said he worried that revising it would lessen its impact and harm efforts to improve race relations.
Among several anonymous comments in the report was one about an alleged violent incident involving the Edina High School boys’ hockey team. According to the report, players on the team physically assaulted a younger black player during a captains’ practice at Braemar Arena, “punching him and choking him” while calling him the N-word.
In a letter published last week by the Sun Current newspaper, Mayor James Hovland wrote that the incident was investigated by parents, coaches and the school district and “found not to have occurred with the 2017-18 team or in the recent past.”
Troy Stein, the athletic director at Edina High School, said Tuesday that district staffers reached out to school athletes “and were able to confirm that certainly in the last three years that it did not occur.”
Stein said captains’ practices — preseason events organized by team captains — are not sponsored by the school or the district. Under district policy, the practices are run by students but must have at least one adult supervisor present at all times.
In an interview Tuesday, Hovland said parents and coaches who reached out to him believe the incident probably didn’t happen at all. “They can’t say it never occurred ... but they feel real comfortable as a result of this investigation,” he said.
City officials believe other comments in the report also may have inadvertently identified particular people, and want that information removed.
“I think it’s important that this is not a redaction. This is a reframing of it because that leaves the stories in place,” Staunton said.
The point of the report, Hovland wrote in his letter in the Sun Current, was not to accuse anyone of being racist or discriminatory toward people of color.
The hockey team anecdote showed, he wrote, “that while great care was taken to protect story sources by allowing anonymity ... protections should have also included elimination of specific identifiers.”
But James Pierce, co-chairman of the task force that created the report, said he hoped that comments won’t be removed simply because they offend somebody.
“The more you dilute a vision, the less progress you make,” Pierce said. “I think you run the risk of losing the momentum of the change that you’re trying to drive.”
Pierce said part of the council’s decision to modify the report had to do with residents resisting the task force’s conclusions.
“We expected there would be pushback,” he said. “What is unsettling is that ... it does not feel like [the council] is at the advocacy level of change.”
Hovland said he trusted in the accuracy of the rest of the report and that he hadn’t received complaints over any other comments. He said he wanted the revisions to go before the council and the co-chairs of the task force once they’re ready.
“I want [the task force] to make sure that we’re totally comfortable with their work product and these modifications that we thought we had to make,” he said.