GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Public Schools says it plans to take action after parents of Somali and African American students said the district isn't doing enough to address a pattern of racist and anti-Muslim abuse directed at their children.
Families met with school and district officials at South Middle School in Grand Forks on Wednesday, Feb. 13, for a closed meeting on what the families' attorney says is an ongoing bullying problem.
Attorney Erik Escarraman, who is representing the parents, said words like "monkey," the “n-word” and "terrorist" have been directed at African American and Somali children by other students. In one case, a Somali child had her hijab pulled off by another student. Parents say the issue has persisted for two years and they haven't seen any significant action taken.
Parents also allege a pregnant teacher told a black student with a cold she feared for her unborn child's safety.
"I'm sorry to say, but it was encouraged by the teachers in some respects," Escarraman said.
Assistant Superintendent Catherine Gillach acknowledges the district has incident reports for the bullying.
Following the meeting, the district said it now plans to talk about cultural differences with teachers and students and work to better educate teachers on how to handle bullying in the classroom.
The district's policy states disciplinary action can be taken against students who engage in bullying and that it plans to take action against any students and teachers involved in bullying incidents.
Escarraman said the district's current approach to bullying isn't tackling the broader problem.
"I think what they're doing is they're addressing individual problems that they see rather than engaging the students as a whole," he said.