MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two Minnesota families are in the middle of a fight with a school district after what they call a clear case of bullying that was caught on camera.
Aaliyah Carlsen says she was locked inside an apartment in Milaca for more than two hours as a high school senior forced her to fight. Several clips were posted on social media.
But in the two months since the fight, critics think the school has not done enough to keep students safe.
That December night is still difficult for Aaliyah to look back on.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Aaliyah said.
The older student can be heard yelling at Aaliyah in the video, saying “If you fight me right now and I will drop everything.”
“Everyone was like telling me I had to fight back or I can’t leave,” she said.
Aaliyah yelled back at the older student in the video, saying “Stop! I’m not fighting you!”
It was a traumatic experience inside an apartment that Aaliyah says stemmed from what happened at Princeton High School 10 days earlier.
“I thought that she did the right thing by reporting it, and that the school would take care of it,” said Erin Carlsen, Aaliyah’s mother.
That’s when Erin says Aaliyah, a freshman, stuck up for a friend in the hallway.
Aaliyah says the same girl who later punched her first wanted to beat up her friend over a boy. It was a threat that Aaliyah says she reported to a school counselor right away.
“The fact that there was a threat made at school and I wasn’t even notified as a parent is appalling,” said Josi Fjeld, the mother of Aaliyah’s friend.
More than a week would pass before Aaliyah says she was taken to an apartment, unaware of who waited inside.
“I just said ‘We have to leave now,’ because I knew what was going on,” Aaliyah said. “I said ‘I don’t feel comfortable.'”
She says the doors were locked and her cellphone was taken. That same girl who had threatened her friend tried to get Aaliyah to fight for more than two hours.
“While this 12th-grade girl was assaulting her, she said something along the lines of ‘This is what you get for being a snitch,'” Carlsen said.
More than a dozen teenagers watched, some posting the play-by-play on Snapchat and eating popcorn.
Aaliyah told her mom about what happened the next morning, and she and her mom filed a report and a restraining order against the older girl with the Milaca Police Department.
But nearly one week later, Aaliyah’s mother said the school principal knew nothing of that restraining order. She says the school maintained that no policies were violated by the girl who first threatened her daughter’s friend, then egged Aaliyah on to fight, because it was not a repeated offense.
“We’ve been told by the school administration multiple times that they cannot report to us if any disciplinary action is done to the student, and we understand that. But we also live in a very small community and we know that there hasn’t been anything done,” Josi said.
Dr. Julia Espe, Princeton’s superintendent, told WCCO in a statement that she cannot legally discuss any disciplinary action. But she says she believes the district has been responsive to the parents’ concerns. She says the district promptly investigates all bullying allegations, but the district’s authority is limited to what happens in or close to school grounds. It does not have the resources to protect students from conduct occurring elsewhere.
It is a response that is not sitting well with Erin and Josi, who are both focused on keeping other families from going through this again.
“This isn’t kids being kids,” Aaliyah said. “This is something that is serious and needs to be dealt with.”
The Mille Lacs County Attorney’s office is still reviewing the case for potential criminal charges. Erin and Josi have also filed a report with the Minnesota Department of Education, which is also investigating. Officials say the department works to resolve complaints within 90 days.
State law says if bullying happens away from school, and it affects learning, schools still need to handle it.
When parents or contacts indicate that they believe a school district or school is not complying with the school’s bullying prohibition policy or the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, the can file a formal complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education.
Center staff will conduct an investigation, including requesting information from the district to determine if they are in compliance with law.
The entire process from receiving a complaint from a parent to the department making a determination can take up to 90 days.