Osseo school parents air concerns: school officials listen
Are minority students treated fairly when it comes to suspensions from Osseo Area Schools? It's just one issue parents of color brought up during a town hall forum Thursday night.

Parents and school officials agree, the ultimate goal is to improve what's working for students, and fixing what isn't.

"This is not a confrontation, but an exchange," said organizer Abdullah Kiatamba of African Immigrant Services.

The issues include student suspensions, which are much higher for students of color, and the hiring of minorities.

"How do you hire social workers, counselors, that are people of color because they understand the unique experiences of these students?" asked Kiatamba. "These kids who come from countries of war. They may be shouting and actually trying to fight."

Kiatamba said suspensions don't help because they lead to other problems like drugs and dropping out of school.

But then how do you handle discipline?

"Like if it's not something that's dangerous, like if I'm talking back to my teacher, that does not warrant a suspension?" asked Victoria Karpeh of the Legacy Family Center. "Maybe that warrants a redirection for something else to happen. Or maybe removing me out of the classroom and putting me in another place where I continue to learn."

It's one question parents and school administrators plan to work on together.

"We're just trying to figure out ways to close the achievement gap," said Ternesha Burroughs, a teacher at North View.

Organizers hope more parental involvement will lead to policy changes. In the end, they want to focus on a short list of concerns.

"We know that we can't do it all, but if we can figure out what are the top five things that are really of concern for our parents, then those are the things we are going to focus on after our meeting," said Burroughs.

This was the first of several planned meetings. Others are set for Latino and Asian communities.

Mike Johnson, reporting

May 23, 2014


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