SOUTH HIGH: Students, board member seek action on racial divide - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

SOUTH HIGH: Students, board member seek action on racial divide

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

What began as a large brawl in the lunchroom at South High School in Minneapolis is bringing forward questions about a racial divide on campus, and that has many demanding action.

Students, members of the community -- even a Minneapolis school board member -- gathered at the school on Tuesday to voice concerns about how officers responded to the incident amid allegations of cultural intolerance.

High school is often difficult for students, but junior Kowsar Mohamed says being an immigrant who is singled out by other minorities leaves him feeling like there is nowhere to turn.

"It just feels like every time something like this happens, nobody listens to us," Mohamed said. "Nobody understands what we're talking about. It's the fact that we go somewhere for education but we don't feel safe."

Mohamed was in the lunch commons last Thursday when the tension boiled over and told FOX 9 News she smelled the Mace police used to break up the mob of about 300 angry and frustrated students.

"I'm a first-generation child and my parents came here to give me a better life," Mohamed said. "It just feels like people are trying to take that away from me."

Somali-American students say they're not only concerned about their safety in regards to the other students, but they also fear the school resource officer assigned to keep order.

"He is a problem in our school," said sophomore Anisa Ahmed. "He basically gets involved in all the fights, and he has beat up not one, not two, but three students."

As of Tuesday night, the Minneapolis police chief opened an internal review of the incident at the school, saying, "We value the strong relationships we have built with the Somali community and I take any allegation that threatens that in any way very seriously."

The school district is referring to the brawl as a learning opportunity, but the Somali-American students say they see it as a watershed moment -- a full-scale confrontation they desperately tried to avoid once they saw it coming.

"We don't have a voice in the building," Ahmed said. "We feel like we don't' have anybody to go to. We feel like it's us and us together, and that's the reason why I feel that this happened."

Of the 1,700 students at South High School, there are only about 140 of Somali heritage, and many say they feel they simply are not understood by their peers and would like to help bridge that cultural gap.

"If we don't get it right, I really feel -- personally -- the city of Minneapolis is in trouble," said Minneapolis Public School Board Member Hussein Samatar. "We have got to get it right for the sake of our future."

Somali students at South High also complained of a lack of access to advanced classes, but MPS CEO Rick Mills insists students and staff alike will learn from this experience.

"We are at the beginning of a necessary learning process," he said.

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