From KARE11: ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Tensions remain high in St. Cloud following a walkout and protest by Somali students alleging a pattern of bullying and discrimination against them.
Reports of a fight triggered a lockdown at St. Cloud Technical High School Friday, summoning police, sheriff’s deputies and State Troopers to the same place more than 100 students and parents gathered on the lawn Wednesday to protest what they describe as an insufficient response by Tech teachers and administrators to their concerns.
Lt. Jeff Oxton of the St. Cloud Police Department says Friday’s altercation never rose to a criminal level, and authorities stayed on hand mostly to keep the situation calm. He said school district officials will have to release details on how many students were involved in the incident and exactly what set things off.
Superintendent Willie Jett said administrators met with Tech student protesters throughout the day Thursday, one day after the protest. A larger group meeting is planned for Friday to further discuss their concerns, Jett said.
Meanwhile Thursday, the district’s other high school, Apollo, was placed on containment for several hours. St. Cloud school district spokeswoman Tami DeLand described the procedure, which limits student movement in and out of the school, as a precautionary response to the Tech protests.
“The students yesterday felt that their voice needed to be heard. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, and I’m not saying protesting was the right thing to do,” Jett said. “But it’s our job … to make sure we listen. We would do that for any student that brings us an issue.”
Somali leader and former St. Cloud City Council candidate Abdul Kulane was involved in a Thursday meeting between students and administration. He said the group didn’t come to any agreement or make any concrete steps.
“It’s troubling,” he said. “Emotions are very high. … Some of them were crying, some of them were in tears.”
While the group didn’t come to any solutions, he hoped that the incident could be a step toward change.
“I think it’s an opportunity to create a dialogue,” he said. “When people are emotional, they tend to be honest. … We can’t get away from it. … We have to deal with emotions … and have a concrete plan to solve this problem.”
Minnesota Department of Education officials contacted the district Thursday in response to the protests, according to department spokesman Josh Collins. Collins said the department’s new school safety center, which was created by an antibullying law enacted last year, contacted the district to see if it could prove assistance. Continue Reading