Members of the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board walked out of a special meeting Monday night when tearful students and raucous activists confronted them about what they describe as a racist culture within the school district.
Students and activists have been protesting since earlier this month, when a video showing two Prior Lake students using a racial slur to harass a Black student went viral.
Eden Alemu, a junior and vice president of the high school's Black Student Union, said it was not the first time she has spoken at a school board meeting about racism.
"It is my fear that situations like this will continue because of the lack of action taken by administration and the lack of support given to students of color," Alemu said.
Payton Adam, who graduated from the high school in 2020, cried as she recounted her experiences. Adams, who is multiracial, said she needed to hide her identity out of fear.
"I realized that this might not be a safe place for me, if they knew who I am," Adam said.
District Superintendent Teri Staloch announced that the student seen in the video is no longer enrolled in the district. The second student was not shown in the video but could be heard.
The board members walked out when Twin Cities activist Lavish Mack, who was not on the list of speakers, interrupted the meeting, yelled and used profanities. He and other activists held up a stack of 100 student experiences they are collecting from current and former Prior Lake students.
"It's just an entirely racist institution that's upholding the status quo," Mack said previously in an interview. "Part of the reason they [students] don't speak out is that they don't know that they can; they don't know that they have the support."
Four members of the board walked out after Mack spoke, except for the sole board member of color. Two board members were not at the meeting.
Elizabeth Sigin, a senior and the older sister of the victim of the video, cried as she approached the board members once they re-entered the room.
"Every day we have to struggle, and you can just walk out of the room and not listen to what we go through," Sigin said.
Staloch said that they are listening to the voices and the needs of our students and are convening groups to identity ways to provide a safe school environment.
The city of Prior Lake is 87.7% white, with residents of color making up just 12.3% of the community, according to MN Compass data.