Hundreds gathered outside Prior Lake High School on Thursday, protesting a video that surfaced this week showing two students using racist language to harass a 14-year-old student.
The demonstration included students from surrounding school districts outraged at the video that appeared on social media. Another student, a 15-year-old cousin of the intended target, said the video was a breaking point for both of them.
The older girl discovered the video in a group chat, and when she found out it was about her younger cousin, her "heart dropped."
In the video, a girl used a racial slur several times as she berated her victim. Another girl can be heard in the background also using the slur.
"I'm going to stand up for her. I'm going to do whatever I have to do to make a change and make her feel safe in this high school, loved and comfortable here," the cousin said. "I had to stand up and I had to come no matter what."
The protest, which drew students, activists and residents, was peaceful. Attendees raised "Black Lives Matter" signs and others calling for justice for the girl. Some took the microphone to share instances of racist behavior they had experienced or witnessed.
The intended target of the video told Fox 9 that no one should have to endure such treatment — "especially regarding the color of their skin."
The protest prompted the district to release students at the high school early from classes, call for extra police and cancel all afternoon activities, according to a letter from Principal John Bezek to parents on Thursday.
Teri Staloch, Prior Lake-Savage school district superintendent, said in an e-mail Wednesday that the district would not tolerate hate speech. "We remain focused on our priority of providing safe, supportive and inclusive learning environments for all students," Staloch said.
In a news conference, Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer said the department is reviewing the video and possible criminal charges. Detectives have been at the school conducting interviews.
No arrests were made during the protests.
Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, called on the school to be more proactive, saying the "lack of action creates a hostile learning environment for students of color."
"The school has an obligation to protect its vulnerable student population, not dismiss their complaints or tell them they have to learn to deal with it," he said at the protest. "This is unacceptable."
Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759