Dozens of Somali teens have walked out of Tech High School in St. Cloud and are protesting on the lawns and sidewalk out front, while administrators are keeping the rest of the students on lockdown in classrooms.
The crowd of about 60 Somali students are upset about offensive postings on social media that followed an earlier dispute at school, according to Tami DeLand, the district’s director of community engagement and communications.
She couldn’t specify what they were, though someone close to the matter said the protests were triggered by a posting on the social media network Snapchat that mocked a disabled Somali student for being in ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group.
Pictures on Twitter show a student in the protests waving a sign that complains of oppression and another holding up a poster saying, “The people united will never be divided.”
DeLand said students are safe and that police aren’t on the site. The administration wanted people in their classrooms to prevent further disturbances; school officials are trying to work with the protesters to bring them back inside.
“They’re working to problem solve to get them to come back in the high school and talk with administrators in a small group setting,” said DeLand. “There’s no threat whatsoever, but it becomes a safety issue if you’ve got the entire population trying to run out of the building to see what’s going on.”
Tech high school junior Marlene McMullen said she was in the lunchroom when more than 100 Somali students walked out at noon, prompting everyone else to rush to the windows to watch what was happening.
McMullen, who said she was friends with an organizer of the protest, said other students at school bully them every day “so they decided they’re not going to take it anymore … everybody just disrespects them and they stood up for themselves.”
Photo posted on Twitter by Sam Louwagie of the St. Cloud Times