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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Minnesota - Tech protest puts racial tension in spotlight

(Medeshi)- Racial tension inside Technical High School became public spectacle on its front lawn Wednesday, as more than 100 students and parents, most of them Somali, protested what they described as a pattern of discrimination and bullying to which school officials have not adequately responded.

The protest started shortly before noon. Protesters chanted slogans and waved posters on the school's south lawn.

Students not involved in the protest were placed on containment, and briefly on lockdown, inside the school, leaving them unable to move about within the building.

One of the protesters, Tech junior Hafsa Abdi, said students organized the event because administrators haven't addressed conflicts between Somali and non-Somali students.
Other protesters alleged unfair school disciplinary practices in which Somali students have been disciplined more harshly than non-Somali students.

The incident described as the catalyst for the protest involved a Tuesday Snapchat post that also was shared on Facebook. It pictured a Somali Tech student in a wheelchair and a caption implying she was affiliated with the Islamic State group terrorist organization, Abdi said.

One of the protesters, Tech freshman Hodo Nour, said she was the student pictured. Nour said she shocked by the post.

Another incident that stoked tension involved fruit being thrown at a Somali student on stage during a cultural heritage show at the school last week, protesters said.

Protester Ayan Bashir, a Tech freshman, said these and other incidents were reported to school administrators but little was done.

"We decided to come out here today because we needed to show action," Bashir said.

"They'll retaliate"

The protest lasted more than two hours before dwindling after 2 p.m.

A group of five students left the protest at one point, went into the building and met with administrators. Abdi was one of the students who met with school officials.

Administrators agreed to train staff to be "more understanding to people of color," Abdi said, and to hire more teachers of color.

"They seemed like they were taking it seriously," said Abdi, a junior at Tech.

District spokeswoman Tami DeLand said district administrators "will definitely respond" to concerns raised by the protesters.

Tech was placed in containment shortly after the protest began. DeLand said the school briefly went into lockdown at about 2 p.m. when police responded to an unrelated argument outside the school near Lake George.

Buses that were parked outside the school during the protest were used for a student field trip, DeLand said.

The students organized Wednesday's protest through social media, said Lul Hersi, who identified herself as a parent of a Tech student. Hersi said students and parents feel administrators have unfairly targeted Somali students for discipline.

She said there have been cases in which Somali students are victims of bullying by non-Somali students and retaliate. The Somali students are disciplined, but the aggressor in the bullying conduct isn't punished, Hersi said.

"This is what we were trying to avoid," Hersi said, as she pointed to the crowd of kids. "But when our kids are pushed and shoved, believe me, they'll retaliate."

Different climate at Tech

Several protesters said racial tensions at Tech are more pronounced than at other high schools.

Nour said she recently transferred from Apollo and has found Tech students to be much more hostile toward Somalis.

Fellow Tech students Maka Ali and Salma Mohamed said they had similar experiences.

Ali moved to St. Cloud from Sioux City, Iowa. She said she was stunned by the level of racial animosity at Tech and the degree to which Somalis are singled out.

"So many students skip class because they know if they come to class, they'll be treated differently," Ali said.

Mohamed moved to St. Cloud after having lived in Minneapolis and Bloomington. In Bloomington, she said she had many white friends at school.

"When I came here, it's like I have no white friends. They don't want to be my friends," Mohamed said.

One of the parents involved in the protest, Sadwda Ali, said similar issues exist at South Junior High. Sadwa Ali said students there have taunted her 11-year-old daughter for wearing a hijab and spat in her face.

Sadwda Ali said she particularly disheartened to hear about white students trying to link Somali students with the Islamic State group.

"They think that all Somalis and all Muslims are terrorists," Sadwda Ali said. "That's totally wrong. Our religion is peace."

Students not involved in the protest began trickling out of the school after 2 p.m. One of them, junior Matt Mohagen, said he and other students were confined to their classrooms for more than two and 1/2 hours during the protest.

"Obviously there's some racial tension here," Mohagen said. "We all have to go to school here together.

"We all need to get along."
Source: http://www.sctimes.com/