Top 10 of 2015: #3 Racial Tensions Surface at Tech High School [VIDEO]
ST. CLOUD - Today on our countdown of the Top 10 local news stories of 2015, we look at #3 on the list.
On March 25th, over 100 students, mostly Somali, walked out and protested outside of Tech High School. Students say the cause of the walk out was years of built up frustration from bullying and discrimination and a lack of action from teachers and staff to address it.
The outrage reached a peak when a photo was posted to the social media site Snapchat with an insensitive remark involving a Somali girl in a wheelchair, implying she was part of the Islamic State terrorist group.
The protest sparked ongoing conversations between students, teachers and district officials on how to improve conditions in St. Cloud area schools.
An open forum was hosted in April by the St. Cloud Muslim community 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 protest 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.
Over the months, a group of students regularly met with district officials. Superintendent Willie Jett said he was impressed by the conversations they had.
“The group expressed their concerns and the meeting was very productive-we were all working together and agreed that we would meet regularly in the future.”
Concerns presented by the group included a higher suspension rate in the district, bullying and harassment of Somali students, a lack of instructor diversity and concerns with the achievement gap. The group encouraged the district to have more staff training to be aware of the needs of every student in their schools.
Jett says the district has remained committed to ongoing meeting with students and that safety is a top priority in their schools.
We’ll continue our Top 10 countdown tomorrow (Wednesday) with our #2 story.