School Board candidate apologizes for insensitive posts

Sharon El-Amin made disparaging comments about gay marriage, transgender people

Sharon El-Amin. File photo

A prominent North Side parent and at-large Minneapolis School Board candidate apologized this past month for disparaging Facebook posts about gay marriage and people who identify as transgender.

Sharon El-Amin said in a Sept. 25 statement that she apologizes for causing any hurt, pain or disrespect because of her posts. She said that her intention does not matter and that what matters is the impact of her actions toward those who identify as LGBTQ, intersex or asexual.

“I can say with all honesty that I have been on a journey these last two years to broaden my perspective and to deepen relationships with those who identify as LGBTQIA,” El-Amin wrote. “My work on education issues has allowed me to build and maintain relationships with people who identify as LGBTQIA or whose children identify as LGBTQIA. This has given me a more well-informed view of the needs of all students and families, and has allowed me to see the work that must be done within MPS and our society to better promote true equity and inclusion…”

El-Amin made at least four disparaging posts about gay marriage and people who identify as transgender between 2013 and 2016. In several, she asks why polygamy is not allowed if gay marriage is allowed. In a 2016 post, she expressed discomfort with gay marriage and allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice.

“Way to (sic) acceptable,  we take G-D out of schools, we slap felony on records pushing modern day slavery, we legalize gay marriage, give title domestic partner for benefits, now we want to allow transgender to use the bathroom of their choice,” she wrote. “If you don’t feel comfortable how the hell do you think I feel…”

El-Amin initially responded that the Facebook posts were taken out of context, saying the point of the 2016 post was that she is constantly worrying about her black male family members’ safety. She said in an interview with the Southwest Journal that she was offended that someone would try and use the posts against her and added that she thought it was a DFL ploy to hurt her campaign.

El-Amin added that she would be a champion for all students as a School Board memeber and said she has never treated anyone differently because of who they are or their choices.

“I have always been a fighter for all people,” she said at the time. “That’s what I represent, and that’s what I continue to do.”

But El-Amin issued an unequivocal apology several days later, calling her own posts “insensitive and inappropriate” and noting how her views have changed since 2016. She said she recognized how harmful her posts had been and said she is growing beyond a “narrow frame of reference” to embrace the needs and rights of every person.

“I know that I have a lot more to learn and a lot more growing to do,” she wrote in a statement. “I am committed to doing all I can to listen, to learn, and to direct my energy towards advocating for all of our children.”

El-Amin also said in a statement that she supports a Minneapolis Public Schools policy that gives transgender students the right to use the bathroom that matches their identity.

El-Amin is one of four candidates for two at-large, citywide seats on the Minneapolis School Board. She finished fourth out of the four candidates in a Aug. 14 primary, though she was less than 2,000 votes behind the second-place candidate.

She appears to have retained supporters, despite the posts. Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney who ran for Minneapolis mayor in 2017, voiced her continued support for El-Amin in a September interview with the Southwest Journal. Levy Armstrong said she believes El-Amin is genuine in expressing remorse about the posts and about broadening her views over the past couple years.

“I think anyone sitting down and having a chance to talk with her would be able to see her heart and know that she is sincere,” Levy Armstrong said.

Levy Armstrong said the Minneapolis School Board needs new leadership, noting poor outcomes for children of color, and she said El-Amin is an “uncompromising” voice in terms of speaking truth to power. She added that El-Amin is outspoken and not tied to a particular agenda.

El-Amin is running against active North Side parent Kimberly Caprini, former MPS teacher Josh Pauly and two-term incumbent Rebecca Gagnon for a place on the School Board.