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The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

The student news site of St. Louis Park High School

The Echo

School board platforms parent stories

District investigation elicits strong emotions
Photo used with permission from St. Louis Park Public Schools

In a cramped space at the district office, a normally sleepy school board meet teemed with parental passion Jan. 23. All chairs were occupied, with no room to breathe as parents lined the walls and filled the room to the brim. 

The school board meeting started with an open forum where parents could voice any concerns about district happenings. Park parent Mindi McColgan said she felt frustrated with the direction of the district following the safety incident, and worried about families leaving the community.

“Many of us are simply fed up with the direction our district has been going,” McColgan said. “Many families have left, many families are planning to leave Park, and we as a district should be worried about that and find out the reasons why these families are truly leaving, and then figure out how to fix these things.”

School board member Abdihakim Ibrahim said the safety incident isn’t justifiable, and said a personal experience he had with his daughter put the impact of the incident into perspective.

“We hear you and we acknowledge you,” Ibrahim said. “I have a daughter in sixth grade and it hit me because she came to me the other night and she said ‘I’m not sure I want to go to high school.’ I asked why and she thought she wouldn’t feel safe going there.”

Park parent Cheryl Gallagher Watson said the violence has become very repetitive at Park, and the staff and students are worthy of more. According to Watson, a solidified plan will reassure her that students are safe, and she is currently exhausted by the current district action.

“I just want us to do better. Our kids deserve better, our staff deserve better. They don’t go to school, they don’t get their degrees to teach to come and break up fights. It’s getting really redundant and we don’t deserve this anymore,” Watson said. “I just ask that there’s a plan that’s productive and set in place, again, not just for this week but for the rest of the school year. I’d like to hear concrete action instead of just words. I get a lot of emails and I’m getting tired of it. I’m going to ask that we can see some action and progress and better safety for our students and staff.”

As part of her statement, Maguire said she’s concerned about the negative comments circulating online and through parent communications about students at Park. During this segment of her statement, parents interrupted her with objections to this segment.

“I understand the concerns and fears of families and students. Given the larger national atmosphere of fear, worry and concern surrounding school safety, it’s only natural for a local event to heighten those emotions,” Maguire said. “Some of the emails that we received conveyed fear, anger, blame and shame. I was disappointed to see those comments on social media platforms where individuals resorted to diminishing, blaming, shaming and stereotyping our children. I wonder how this is helpful to our school community.”

The first interruption was a small comment from the back of the room.

“I wonder how shaming us is helping,” the parent said. 

Maguire continued her statement, directly addressing the comments made by adults in the Park community.

“Moving forward I agonize over how those comments perpetuate negative stereotypes and narratives about our students and I wonder about how the negativity of some adults carries through our school community,” Maguire said. 

Another interruption ensued, this time louder than the last.

“Don’t blame the parents,” a new parent shouted.

Maguire again continued her statement, starting where she had been cut off.

“I believe — what you’ll hear me continue to speak about is collective responsibility,” Maguire said.

The same parent interrupted again.

“You’re shaming us right now,” the parent said.

A brief applause ensued before Maguire could continue her statement.

According to Maguire, there are current policies put in place to guarantee safety following the incident. In the long term, she said the school is operating closely with law enforcement to completely understand the full picture and motivation of the incident.  

“The police department is conducting an investigation and the school district is conducting an investigation and that’s typical practice. We’re actively gathering information and working closely with law enforcement to understand the full scope of the incidents, including whether or not incidents were motivated by bias,” Maguire said. “We’re also taking short term action to ensure a safe and caring environment. 

Many parents brought up concerns that “concrete action” against students involved in the physical altercations has not been taken, and questioned what Park’s violence policy is. Maguire said that while she was looking through the discipline data for this year, she found that many suspensions and dismissals have been enacted, and that every single fight this year has resulted in consequences.

“The truth is that there have already been 52 suspensions and 65 dismissals this school year predating Thursday’s event,” Maguire said. “Now, I’m not proud of that data and ordinarily wouldn’t want to be talking about it. I’m not proud of that data because I know what’s underneath that data is racial disproportionality and decreased odds of graduation from high school for every single student that we’ve already suspended from school. The truth is that significant action has been taken this year for every single fight that has occurred.”

Several parents questioned whether Park can increase police presence or instill a zero-tolerance policy for violence. According to Maguire, suspensions, police presence and similar solutions are temporary fixes, and longstanding change can only be achieved through changing the foundational philosophy and environment of Park.

“Without effective teaching that keeps students engaged, no amount of suspensions, no amount of police officers and no amount of school administrators can help our communities thrive,” Maguire said. “For effective schools to maintain a safe and healthy work and learning environment, they must set and communicate high expectations for student behavior.” 

You can watch the Special School Board meeting on YouTube by going to the Park YouTube Channel.

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Anya Panday
Anya Panday, Editor-in-Chief
Howdy!! I’m Anya, and I’m one of the Editors-in-Chief this year, along with Crystal Diaz. I’m a junior, and this is my third year on Echo. When I’m not decorating the Pub, you can find me lifting weights, stress baking, performing on a stage and expanding my scented candle collection. I pride myself in covering content relevant to Parks student body and helping our staffers learn all about journalism. I can’t wait to work with the talented staff this year!
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Crystal Diaz, Editor-in-Chief
Hello Everyone! My name is Crystal and I am a senior and this year’s co-editor in chief with the lovely Anya Panday. When I am not in the pub you can find me at Barnes and Noble or Watching Gilmore Girls. In my free time I enjoy spending time with loved ones and going to concerts. My favorite concert I’ve been to is Louis Tomlinson and my favorite song at the moment is FREE BREAKFAST PROGRAM by Sunset Tim. 

Comments (4)

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  • H

    hiFeb 8, 2024 at 11:48 am

    I’m also sick of the collective punishment. Why should the whole school have to suffer due to the actions of a few students? For example, closing bathrooms, hallway “resets”, limiting passes, closed campus for lunch, etc.

    • N

      Noah LeventhalFeb 15, 2024 at 8:36 am

      From my knowledge, the bathrooms are closed because they are actually just broken and have issues — not because they want to punish us — that seems quite silly. hallway resets are a solution that gets students in the classroom; if you’re on time to your class and doing what you’re supposed to do, you won’t be punished. Closing the campus for lunch was a safety precaution for 4 days so there would be fewer students wandering campus, as well as diminishing the possibility of endangering students. These changes are quite innocuous and shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re really trying to nitpick.

  • A

    Anonymous personFeb 8, 2024 at 11:45 am

    I don’t like how this school tries to water down and sugar coat these situations by using euphemisms such as “safety incident”. It’s called fighting, it’s called violence, and for some reason it’s just being tolerated. At the school board meeting, one of the parents claimed that the principal walked out of a staff meeting crying because of having to punish black students. If that’s really the case, I’m disappointed. It is actually, believe it or not, racist to treat students differently by not holding them accountable for their violent actions, because of their race, and because the school is afraid to punish them in fear of being seen as racist. How counterproductive.

  • J

    Jim WatsonJan 29, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    Maguire is wrong. The only way to combat the intolerant behavior of anyone prone to violence has to be summarily removed permanently from the system and placed in a system that will not allow such violence whether it is caused by racism or not.