About 150 students at Hopkins High School staged a walkout Friday afternoon to protest what they called unfair treatment of minority students at the 1,800-student school in Minnetonka.
“What do we want?” “Equality!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” they chanted during the walkout on the balmy spring day, which broke up as soon as school let out and buses arrived about 2:30 p.m.
The students said they were protesting a culturally insensitive learning environment, including what they termed excessive suspensions of black and Latino students. Statistics on such suspensions were not available Friday.
The protesters also cited a February incident in which some members of the school’s ski team dressed like rappers, prompting some black students to put up protest posters. Two black students then were charged with misdemeanors after an altercation with administrators over the issue.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Malika Mousa, a junior who helped lead Friday’s protest.
Citing data privacy laws, school officials declined to discuss the February incident.
Earlier Friday, Principal Patty Johnson held a “listening session” with the students about their complaints and asked them not to walk out.
The administration issued this statement during the protest: “Our high school has a richly diverse student body, and we are committed to teaching all students. We recognize our students’ right to protest, but also invite them to come back into the building and share any grievances they may have with the high school administration.”
Johnson will continue to hold listening sessions on the issues the students have raised, a school spokeswoman said.
Jae Bates, an Asian-American junior, said administrators are much quicker to punish students who are black or Latino than they are other students. “I feel like I could do something 20 times worse than them and I might not get in trouble,” he said.
Two other schools, both in Minneapolis, have experienced protests or walkouts this school year. In March, students at South High School held a protest after a lunchroom melee that apparently was linked to racial and ethnic tensions. Earlier this month, Washburn High School’s principal was reassigned in the wake of student protests over her discipline of a popular athletic director and a January incident in which a black-skinned doll was hung in a school hallway.
Hopkins High serves students in grades 10-12 from Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Eden Prairie, Golden Valley, St. Louis Park and Plymouth. In 2011-12, its student body was 67 percent white, 22 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 4 percent American Indian.