LETTERS: Mpls. Schools Respond to Washburn High School Racial Incident

Updated: 01/31/2013 11:13 AM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart

Four student have been disciplined for a racial incident that happened last week at Washburn High School. A group calling itself Parents and Community Advocating for Social and Educational Justice is calling for a federal and state hate crime investigation.

The principal released this letter in response to the incident earlier this month:

Dear Washburn Community,

This week’s message addresses an incident that happened at our school on Friday, January 11. Near the end of the school day, a small group of students engaged in an insensitive activity that involved dangling a dark-skinned baby doll by its neck with a piece of string. Students recorded the incident and images were posted on social media sites. School security cameras also captured the events.

An image such as the one described causes feelings of anger and humiliation, and we intend to provide a safe space for productive conversations to take place. I was informed afterschool on Friday and took immediate action. We are committed to following the school district’s code of conduct in any instance of inappropriate behavior.

This is an extremely disturbing occurrence and not reflective of the Miller Pride that we promote. Such insensitive behavior is intolerable in our school and school district,both of which are full of diversity and rich in culture.

Due to the gravity of this incident, we are responding in several ways. Aside from following the school district’s code of conduct in any instance of inappropriate behavior, we will be creating opportunities for these students to take responsibility for their actions through restorative measures. We are also seeking opportunities for students to work with our community partners who provide support services so they have the resources they need to be successful.

Because references have been posted on social media sites and students are talking about the incident, it is imperative that our community receives this message and understands that we are aggressively responding. Parents can help their students be safe on social media by teaching them about appropriate behavior, empathy, and how to report abuse to the website administrators and trusted adults at school or elsewhere.

We will promote opendialogue between students and staff in order to learn from this unfortunate episode and create opportunities to talk about race and respect.

Thank you.

Carol Markham-Cousins

Principal, Washburn High School

 

Minneapolis Schools issued this response:

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is deeply disturbed by an incident of racial intolerance that occurred last week at Washburn High School.

The incident involved a small group of students engaged in an insensitive activity that involved dangling a dark-skinned baby doll by its neck with a piece of string. Students recorded the incident and images were posted on social media sites. School security cameras also captured the events.

We took immediate action on Friday, January 11, to address the situation. Washburn is working with MPS staff from Emergency Management, Safety and Security; Student Support Services; and Equity and Diversity to address this issue.

We do not accept racial intolerance in our school district. We are following the school district’s code of conduct in addressing the inappropriate behavior. We are also seeking opportunities for these students to take responsibility for their actions through restorative measures. The four students were involved to varying degrees. Because of student privacy, we are unable to share any specific disciplinary actions that were taken.

Washburn will continue to work with community partners in conducting restorative dialogue circles. This model has shown success at Washburn in the past. We understand that this situation may cause feelings of anger and humiliation for some students. MPS is also providing support for students through school counselors, other staff members and community partners.