More than 100 Somali teens walked out of Tech High School in St. Cloud on Wednesday in a protest, as administrators kept the rest of the students on lockdown inside.
The students complained about racist taunting from classmates, while holding up a poster saying, “The people united will never be divided.”
In recent days, a photo taken by another student surfaced from the social network Snapchat that had a caption mocking a disabled Somali classmate for being in ISIL, the Islamic terrorist group, according to students.
Protest organizer Hafsa Abdi, a 17-year-old junior, said many threatening incidents had preceded it. Students in the cafeteria would jump on the table where Somalis were sitting and stomp on their food, she said. The Somalis student had objects thrown at them when they gathered for prayer. They were called terrorists and told to go back to their country.
“We report racial things that happen in school and we feel like nothing is being done about it,” Abdi said. After learning of the Snapchat comment, she added, “we felt like we’re not going to stand for this.”
On Wednesday, she said, Somali students met around 8:30 in the morning to plan a walkout from the lunchroom at noon. About 15 parents showed up, including some who were not Somali.
Junior Marlene McMullen, a friend of Abdi’s, said people in the lunchroom rushed to the windows to watch what was happening when the Somali students strode out.
The people who remained were on lockdown for about 2½ hours as administrators tried to prevent further disturbances and bring the protesters back inside.
It’s unknown if the protesters will face disciplinary action.
Ultimately, a small group of the students, including Abdi and some parents, went inside to meet with Principal Adam Holm and other staff. The crowd dispersed when they came back outside to report the discussion and the officials’ promise to take their complaints seriously.