Mpls. Hmong Student Attacked, Blames School Busing Change

Created: 02/09/2013 8:48 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

Minneapolis Public Schools discontinued traditional yellow school bus transportation for students at Henry High this semester; teens are now asked to take metro transit buses.

Some Hmong parents and students have been predicting the switch would cause problems, and now they’re saying “I told you so.”

A Hmong teenager says he was attacked in North Minneapolis while waiting for a metro bus. The junior agreed to an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on the condition his identity would not be revealed. The two young men who attacked him have not yet been caught, and he fears repercussions.

“They hit me and I fell back and my head hit the bus shelter and then I was out cold,” he said.

The attack happened two weeks ago, at the corner of Penn and Oak Park. The student says he had just returned to the bus stop after walking his girlfriend home. He said that the yellow school buses used to drop his girlfriend off close to her home; the Metro Transit route does not.

The student says his assailants started following him and tried to pick a fight. After one struck him in the jaw, they ran off, and a witness called police. He has a concussion, and is still struggling with memory and balance issues.

The student’s mother says she was panicked as she drove to the hospital. “I was imagining that when I got there the doctor would say ‘sorry, your son is dead’,” she said. “I definitely want the school busses back.”

Students at Henry, Edison, North, Washburn and Roosevelt began taking public transportation to school this past fall. South and Southwest High School students are scheduled to begin using Metro Transit in the fall of 2013.

School district leaders say that during the transition from school buses to metro transit, students overwhelmingly chose to ride public transportation.

Minneapolis Public Schools Director of Administrative Operations Robert M. Johnson said, "High school students took 674,000 rides in the first five months. The reported incident rate was 0.0001 per ride. Minneapolis public schools believe students are just as safe riding public transportation as they are riding on traditional yellow school buses."

Yet Jay Clark, the director of the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing said, “In the past week I have heard of at least three other incidents.”

Clark said many in the Hmong community are afraid to come forward and report problems. Hmong students make up more than 40 percent of Henry High's population.

“I think the school ought to be listening very carefully to the students and really digging to know exactly what's going on,” Clark added.

This student who was attacked said the experience has made him realize the need to speak out.

“A friend of mine, her sister was (inappropriately) touched on the bus,” he said. “And another friend was robbed at gunpoint at a bus stop,” he added.

The student’s mom, now relieved to know her oldest child is OK, has found her voice as well.

“If we cannot find the suspects,” she said, “I want them (the school district) to be responsible for this hospital bill. Because if they wouldn't have put him in a city bus he wouldn't have gotten attacked and we wouldn't have to pay for this bill.”

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com