A task force of Somalis community leaders in St. Cloud met with education officials in an attempt to defuse tensions amid claims of racial discrimination at Technical High School.
A group of more than 100 Somali students walked out of school on two occasions last week, saying it failed to deal with bullying at the hands of non-Somali students. Those incidents reached a head when a Snapchat message circulated showing a disabled Somali student as a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.
MPR reports a task force of around 15 Somali community elders and students met with Superintendent Willie Jett and school board chairman Dennis Whipple, and group member Hassan Yussuf described the meeting as "productive."
Jett told WJON the task force expressed concerns about the higher suspension rate in the district, bullying and harassment of Somali students, and a lack of diversity among teaching staff, adding that he would be meeting regularly with the task force in the future.
Students involved in the protests met with executive teachers at the school last week, and say they had secured promises that more would be done to increase understanding among staff about dealing with people of color.
Snapchat student wants to apologize
The St. Cloud Times reports the student behind the offensive Snapchat wants to apologize.
His parents spoke with the newspaper, saying they want their 17-year-old son – who is suspended – to have the opportunity to apologize, and say they fear he is going to be expelled for a "one-time mistake."
"They're trying to portray him as some sort of a racist, and that's not him," his father told the newspaper, adding that they were both "disgusted" by his post. "He made a mistake. He's trying to amend the mistake."
MPR notes that the St. Cloud Area School district has previously been under federal scrutiny after reports that white students and teachers were found to be making "offensive and derogatory" comments toward Somali students.