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Saturday, March 21, 2015

US- St. Cloud officials meet with Somali students over treatment

(Medeshi)- ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — St. Cloud school officials have met with Somali parents, community elders and students after Somali-American students walked out to protest their treatment.

The meeting happened Thursday, a day after students, including 18-year-old Nasteho Dini, walked out of St. Cloud Tech High School, according to Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1C04YQ2 ).

Dini said school officials told the students they'd get a response to their requests soon.

"On a daily basis, we're shown that we're not welcome," said Nasteho Dini. She said she feels like an outsider at her own school because of harassment from other students.

"We go there to learn, not to be oppressed," she said.

She said other students call Somali-American students members of ISIS, the terrorist organization, and pull off their headscarves.

Students said the incident that set off their protest involved a photo posted last week on Snapchat taken during lunch at the school. It was of a Somali-American student, Hodo Nour, who was using a wheelchair after breaking her leg last month. A caption said she was "disabled in ISIS." The photo circulated among Tech students.

Students say it's part of a larger pattern of behavior.

The principal, Adam Holm, made an announcement to the school, conveying the protesters' concerns, according to the station.

District spokeswoman Tami DeLand said the district has a strong policy against harassment, and all complaints are investigated.

Tech has been accused in the past of failing to respond effectively to harassment. Five years ago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations got a federal agency to investigate complaints of harassment in St. Cloud schools. A spokesperson for the St. Cloud school district says there was no finding of discrimination or harassment, and the schools voluntarily agreed to work to improve relations.

Jerry Von Korff, a longtime school board member and former chairman, said the district has worked hard to be more inclusive. Still the students wouldn't walk out if they didn't see a problem, he said.

"When somebody cries out and says you're not doing good enough, we don't want to beat them down," he said. "We want to work with them, listen to them and make this a better place."


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org