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Fargo School Board member suspects tire was slashed because of pledge snafu

Nyamal Dei said she doesn't know for sure how her tire was punctured, but she suspects it was connected to criticism she received for opposing reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of Fargo

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Fargo School Board member Nyamal Dei speaks in August, 2022, about backlash she received over her stand on whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited at board meetings.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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FARGO — When Nyamal Dei got into her vehicle Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, and attempted to drive to a community event, she discovered her vehicle could not be driven because a tire was deflated.

The night before, Dei said, she decided not to park her vehicle in the garage of her Fargo residence after returning home from a meeting of the Fargo School Board, on which she serves.

She said she doesn't know for sure how her tire was punctured, but she suspects it was connected to criticism she received for opposing reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of school board meetings, a practice the board adopted earlier this year .

Dei said she planned to take a photograph of the flattened tire and that she may send the picture to the Fargo Police Department. Earlier this year, Fargo police opened an investigation after Dei reported receiving hateful messages in the wake of a vote she cast in opposition to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school board meetings.

A spokeswoman for Fargo police said the investigation into the threatening communications has been completed, and it was determined an individual living in Pennsylvania was responsible for sending the messages to Dei.

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However, no charges are being filed as the communications do not rise to a prosecutable level, police said.

Dei said the flat tire was an inconvenience, but she has chosen to view it as an affirmation that her presence on the school board is making a difference.

"I feel like I'm doing something right," she said.

Dei, a South Sudanese refugee , said if someone meant the flat tire as intimidation, it fell short of its intended effect.

"I have actually been through much. This is nothing," she said.

The idea to begin reciting the pledge was initiated earlier this year by then-board member David Paulson, who lost a bid for reelection in June.

The board decided in a vote taken March 22 to begin reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of meetings.

For much of the spring and summer, the board began its meetings with the pledge, though not all board members participated .

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In a vote taken Aug. 9, Tracie Newman, who is now the board president, voted to stop reciting the pledge, along with board members Jim Johnson, Seth Holden, Katie Christensen, Melissa Burkland, Greg Clark and Dei. Board members Robin Nelson and Nikkie Gullickson opposed the move.

During discussions regarding the pledge, board members stated the inclusion in the pledge of a reference to God could be viewed by some as a sign the district was not sensitive or welcoming to the beliefs of all members of the community.

At a special meeting on Aug. 18, the Fargo School Board voted 8-1 to resume reciting the pledge at the start of meetings, with Dei casting the lone "no" vote.

The turnabout was prompted by public outcry that followed the board's Aug. 9 vote to stop reciting the pledge.

At the meeting when the vote was taken to resume reciting the pledge, several board members, including Dei, mentioned they had received hateful calls and emails from people all over the country, some of them threatening, after the board voted to stop reciting the pledge.

Dei, who was the first Black woman elected to the school board during an election in June, said at the time she has always maintained that people should stand up for what they believe in.

"Hate has no place in this community; it does not make a strong democracy," she added.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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