By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Of all the memories made at Chaska High School this year, one in particular is quickly being removed from the yearbook.

It is a picture that showed a student wearing blackface in the stands at the football game against Chanhassen High School.

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Tonya Coleman’s daughter attends the school.

“Not again, are you serious? The same exact issue of blackface again?” Coleman said.

She learned of the issue in a message from the assistant principal.

“They could have swept that under the rug and we could have been finding out about that from some other source, which would have been worse,” Coleman said. “So I do applaud them for letting us know about it. But the fact that it happened leads me to [believe] they’re not paying attention.”

(credit: CBS)

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Last month, the tension in the district came to a head at a school board meeting where parents shared emotional stories of racism and bias targeted at students of color. Coleman’s daughter was at the center of one incidents, in which she said her daughter wasn’t able to display posters at the school during Black History Month containing information on Malcolm X, Emmett Till and Black Lives Matter.

“There’s a huge amount of distrust in our community right now between parents and the school board, parents and the district level, parents and our principals in our schools,” she said.

Coleman is part of the school’s new Equity Task Force, put together to address racial issues involving students and how staff address them. She said the yearbook photo can be a teaching moment with parents leading the conversation.

“Kids are gonna be kids, but parents need to take some responsibility for the kids and the education that they can have in their own home, especially with summer coming,” she said.

Coleman says the Equity Task Force is planning a town hall with the school board within the next few weeks. She said another group she’s part of, Residents Organizing Against Racism, is working with city leaders and the YMCA to schedule anti-bias workshops.

Eastern Carver County Schools Superintendent Clint Christopher released this statement:

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It’s important to acknowledge that there are issues in our schools. No one in the district is contesting that we have work to do, and I take my responsibility to our students, each and every one of them, seriously and personally. I – and I speak for my staff and for the School Board – am committed to fixing these concerns at every level of our school district. These incidents do not and will not define us, and we are investing in long-term, system-wide work to change the culture so that every person who is a part of our school community feels safe, welcome, included, and respected.

Jeff Wagner