A federal civil rights office will visit St. Cloud Tech high school next week in the wake of claims by Somali students that they've been harassed for their religion, dress and culture. The students walked out of classes twice last month in protest over what they said was the administration's weak response to their concerns.
The visit from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights will bring together administrators and student representatives, said district spokesperson Tami DeLand.
News of the meeting was welcomed by a spokesman for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "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," said Jaylani Hussein, in a statement issued Monday.
About 100 students walked out of classes last month at St. Cloud Tech High School after learning that a white classmate had posted a picture online of a Somali student and suggested she was part of ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group. Other Somali students complained that students spat on them, knocked coffee cups out of their hands, jumped on the cafeteria tables and stomped on their lunches or told them to go back to Somalia. A second walkout two days later erupted when students said they felt the administration was not doing enough to stop the harassment.
The St. Cloud School Distirct has been operating under an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights since 2012, after a Somali student's complaint of harassment lead to a federal civil rights investigation of the school district. The agreement required that the district make its schools more welcoming to Somali students, but found that the district broke no federal rules in handling the incidents of alleged harassment of Muslim students at two St. Cloud high schools.
Next week's visit is a continuation of that agreement, said DeLand.