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Officials Address Tensions Following High School Brawl

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Five days after a racially charged brawl between hundreds of students at Minneapolis South High School, parents and community leaders are expressing concerns that not enough is being done to prevent future problems.

Late Tuesday afternoon a group of parents, students and community leaders held a news conference to address tensions between Somali-American students and other students.

Last week, rumors about a fight at an early lunch period  fueled tensions and led to the brawl an hour later during the third lunch period. The fight was captured by student cell phones, and caught by school surveillance cameras on multiple angles.

At the press conference, students, parents and community leaders stressed that tensions had been building for months. The 8 percent of Somali-American students feel left out, even ostracized because of their different ethnic and religious background.

The news conference was organized by Hussein Samatar, a Minneapolis School Board member and the first Somali immigrant to hold a major elective office in Minnesota.

“This is high stakes,” Samatar said. “We just want to make sure that everybody is secure and safe.”

Everyone agrees it was lucky that the injuries during the fight weren’t worse. Three students and one staff member were briefly hospitalized with minor injuries, and 12 others were treated on the scene after being overcome by Mace.

Still, Kowsar Mohamed, a junior at the school, says this was way more than a food fight.

“The fact that we go there for education, and we don’t feel safe…it should be a safe environment where everybody understands what we are doing.”

She says since the fight, the school has added security.

“I guess I feel safer because now there is a police officer of my own kind there now,” she said.

Samatar says South High needs to send a signal to all students that they are respected, and that Somali-Americans value their shot at an American education.

“They know that the only way out is education,” Samatar said. “They have nothing else going on for them, and they will do whatever it takes with their parents to show up to learn and succeed.”

School board officials were at news conference and said they are working to improve understanding among all students.

Rick Mills, the CEO Minneapolis Public Schools, said the officials are at the beginning of a learning process.

“[We are] confident that adults and students alike can grow from this experience,” he said.

South High is holding small students meetings, beefing up teacher training and will soon hold parents meetings.

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