Concerns and Frustration Voiced at Open Forum on Recent Tech Protest [VIDEO]
ST. CLOUD - Emotions ran high as students, parents and community members voiced their concerns with recent cases of alleged bullying and discrimination at Tech High School.
An open forum was hosted by the St. Cloud Muslim community on Monday night with guests from the U.S. Department of Education and Justice Department, who listened to concerns and feedback of how to reduce bullying and discrimination in St. Cloud area schools.
Somali students and parents voiced their frustrations with cases of discrimination in schools, saying that school officials don't do enough or anything at all to address the bullying. Two students who helped organize the March protest at Tech High School spoke and said they felt that they had no other option to get their voices heard.
Other members of the community voiced their frustrations with Somali students bullying white students in school. Some felt the situation isn't a race issue, rather a parenting and bullying concern. Others said they felt the Somali community were turning a blind eye to bullying against children of other races and cultures.
Some speakers were in tears as they recalled being bullied or others telling stories of their children being bullied.
Somali leader and former candidate for the St. Cloud Area School Board, Hassan Yussuf, took part in the meeting, he says the district needs to do more to make sure all students feel welcome in school.
"We need to make sure all students feel safe and secure in the school system-that can be achieved by making sure the school has a diverse staff and we also want to see the achievement gap tackled," Yusuf says.
Racial tensions escalated in St. Cloud Schools on March 18th, when a group of mostly Somali students at Tech High School walked out of class to protest alleged discrimination at the school. The protest happened after a student sent a picture on Snapchat with a Somali girl in a wheelchair with a caption suggesting she was a member of ISIS.
About three weeks ago, District 742 officials met with local Somali leaders to discuss the recent protest at Tech. Superintendent Willie Jett said the meetings were productive and that the district is working to ensure all students feel safe in their schools.
This isn't the first time racial tensions with Somali students have escalated in St. Cloud schools.
In March of 2010, The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Department of Education to investigate reports of discrimination against Somali students at Tech and Apollo High Schools in St. Cloud.
In November 2011, the St. Cloud Area School District submitted a settlement agreement to the U.S. Department of Education to resolve a case of harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.