A St. Paul student group says students should have the freedom to decorate graduation caps and gowns in ways that celebrate their ethnicity.

The recommendation by the SPPS Student Engagement and Advancement Board was presented to the school board this week and could be considered in time for commencement this year.

In pushing for the change, Ruby Sutton and Skyler Kuczaboski of the student group cited concerns over a Harding High student being barred from wearing a family stole reflecting her Asian heritage.

District policy currently prohibits students from carrying items or altering their caps and gowns without approval.

The student board also urged the district to avoid putting "strict limits" on how students choose to express their cultural identities, and suggested a policy change for 2018 saying that the district "encourages" students to express "ethnic traditions at graduation through wearing of visual representations of their culture."

Mary Vanderwert, one of three board members who will take a closer look at the suggestion, said she believed some boundaries would be needed. Colleague John Brodrick, citing instances in which students put inappropriate messages atop their caps, said he wants feedback from class advisers and others.

Board Member Chue Vue said the changes could be positive. "I'm excited to be able to work on this policy," he said.

Anthony Lonetree

Shakopee among districts winning internet grant

Students in Shakopee and 11 rural school districts will now have improved access to wireless internet at home and on the school bus, thanks to state funding.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Department of Education announced the grant recipients on Thursday. More than 30 school districts applied for the grants funded by a $500,000 initiative to offer high-speed internet to rural communities with students from low-income families.

The grants will go toward providing students with access to the internet while riding the bus and at home in hopes of keeping them on par with their urban peers, according to the release.

"Where a student lives and their family income should not determine whether they are able to complete their schoolwork or not," Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement.

The Shakopee School District, the only metro district chosen, received $34,574 in grant funding.

Lake of the Woods School District in Baudette received $49,840. Students spend more than two hours riding the bus to and from school in the Lake of the Woods School District, which is a standard amount of time for students in rural Minnesota, according to the release.

With the funding, districts will add wireless hot spots on their school buses and give students the chance to check out mobile broadband devices to use at home.

Beatrice Dupuy

New Minneapolis board shows split in first vote

The Minneapolis school board has a new leader. Rebecca Gagnon won the seat at Tuesday's board meeting.

The vote for chair, the first decision with three new board members, split the board. KerryJo Felder, Siad Ali, Ira Jourdain, Gagnon and Bob Walser voted for Gagnon, with Walser as the swing vote. Board members Kim Ellison, Jenny Arneson, Don Samuels and Nelson Inz voted for Inz.

The vote was tied before it came to newcomer Walser. He briefly thought about his choice before siding with Gagnon.

Ellison kept her seat as vice-chair, former board chair Arneson will be treasurer, and Walser was named clerk.

Beena Raghavendran