By JAY CLARK
MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 9, 2014) — North Minneapolis Hmong family members met with Minneapolis Police Department’s Hmong outreach officer Kou Vang on Thursday.
The meeting was held at the University of Minnesota (UROC) on Plymouth Ave. North. The meeting focused on reducing crime and making their neighborhoods safer.
The Hmong families also got a surprise visit from newly elected Minneapolis City Councilmember Blong Yang. Everybody enjoyed pizza and pop.
Much of the conversation focused on two problems: bike stealing, and staying out of fights at school. The Hmong students asked how they can get help to avoid fights without the risking suspensions or expulsions.
The Hmong students said that at school they can be the targets of hitting and bullying and racist comments by other students. And they said the zero-tolerance policies of some school systems can end up punishing the victims of bullying.
In one example, a Hmong girl was jumped by four other girls after gym. The other girls knocked her down, got on her back, and pulled her hair and punched and kicked her.
No adults were around. When the Hmong girl attempted to defend herself, the school suspended her and told if she did it again she would be expelled.
In another example, some other boys walked up to some Hmong students, called them racial slurs, and started a pushing match. The Hmong boys were afraid there could be a full scale fight behind the buses the next day, and went to the vice principal to ask his help to prevent the fight. The vice principal responded by suspending the Hmong students for pushing.
Officer Vang suggested that the Hmong students talk with a trusted teacher about what was happening, in detail and right at the beginning of problems before they get really serious. The teacher is not going to suspend the students, and if necessary can talk to the administrators to head off fights without using student’s names and putting them at risk of suspension.
Many North Minneapolis Hmong youth complained that they they often get their bikes stolen, sometimes out of their garages and porches, and sometimes by other kids pushing the Hmong kids off their bikes and riding off. Hmong students reported that sometimes they see other families with their bikes, and often when they go to the families and/or the police to get the bike back, the other families will simply repaint the bikes and claim it was always theirs.
Officer Vang told the Hmong kids that when they get bikes, they should always take pictures of the bikes and write down the serial numbers, so even if the bike is repainted the Hmong kids can prove the bike was originally theirs. The Hmong kids can also take the seat off, write their names on a piece of paper and stick it in the hollow of the steel tube, and put the seat back on.
Officer Vang also said that when the Hmong kids play and ride bikes outside they should go in groups, that usually Hmong kids get knocked off their bikes when riding alone.
Officer Vang also said that the Minneapolis police department was regularly getting calls from northside Hmong callers.
While the Hmong families were having their meeting with officer Vang, A celebration for outgoing councilmember Don Samuels was going on in the next room. The Hmong families went over to the celebration and thanked Don for working hard to get a Hmong outreach police officer.