MINNEAPOLIS (April 6, 2015) — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) on Monday welcomed the renewed investigation of the St. Cloud School District by the U.S. Department of Education.
DOE officials have informed CAIR-MN that the department will renew its investigation of the St. Cloud School District based on Somali students’ allegations of harassment and discrimination and the inadequate action taken by the school’s staff and administration. A CAIR-MN video probes the claims that Somali students are being bullied.
“While we welcome the renewed investigation by the Department of Education, it is truly troubling to see the recurrence of a similar level of harassment targeting Somali students that we saw few years ago,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. “Somali students from St. Cloud Technical Senior High School that we spoke with have reported a number of incidents of harassment and bullying by students targeting Somali students.”
DOE officials will be visiting to St. Cloud in upcoming weeks to begin its investigation. The Somali community is being encouraged to voice its concerns during that visit. CAIR-MN will be working with the community and the recently formed task force to help students and families prepare for that visit.
The issue began on Feb. 19, 2015, when students at St. Cloud Technical Senior High School walked out of their classes to protest the discrimination they claim to be facing without resolve. The protest occurred after a student sent a picture via Snapchat of a Somali student in a wheelchair with a caption suggesting that student was a member of ISIS, the terror group based in Iraq and Syria.
In March 2010, CAIR Minnesota asked the DOE to investigate reports of discrimination against Somali students at Tech and Apollo high schools in St. Cloud and in Owatonna. CAIR Minnesota detailed a number of incidents in St. Cloud’s high schools that they say show Somali students confront a hostile and harassing environment.
The CAIR national chapter responded by issuing a press release asking the DOE to address racial tensions in Minnesota schools.
In November 2011, St. Cloud Area School District 742 submitted a settlement agreement to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to resolve a case of harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. CAIR-MN responded publicly welcoming the mandated federal compliance in school settlement.
The Monday CAIR-MN statement added that there is no end date for the settlement agreement. The case has stayed open, and will remain open, until the DOE finds that harassment and discrimination are no longer a concern in the District.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.