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Student wins award for costume of hunters’ killer

Associated Press

ST. PAUL — A high school student was awarded third place in a Halloween-week contest for his costume of Chai Soua Vang, apparently because the judges didn’t see the outfit was of the convicted killer of six hunters in Wisconsin two years ago.

"That someone didn’t see it — didn’t pull the plug on it — is troubling to me," said Todd Bartholomay, principal at Open School, which serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The shooting inflamed racial tensions on both sides of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Vang is a Hmong man from St. Paul. The hunters were white.

The student who won the award was a Hmong male senior. He wore an orange, prison-style jumpsuit with Vang’s name written on the chest. Bartholomay said the lettering was too small to be visible to the group of students and teachers judging the contest.

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Bartholomay said the student may have also announced his costume into a microphone on Tuesday, but the significance was lost amid the noise and bustle in the room. About 200 students had entered in the contest.

"I can only think this just didn’t register with people," Bartholomay said.

The student later told administrators that he had picked the name because he thought Vang was a well-known prisoner. He said that he didn’t intend to offend anyone, Bartholomay said.

School officials talked to the student, but he will not get further punishment.

The costume award was one of the topics discussed on Wednesday on St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray’s radio show on KSTP-AM, but Bartholomay said Thursday he hadn’t heard from anyone who was offended.

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