Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Feds to investigate Somali harassment allegations

ST. PAUL — The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into allegations of harassment of Somali students in St. Cloud and Owatonna, department officials confirmed on Tuesday.

A Muslim advocacy group had requested federal intervention, complaining that the school districts failed to stop anti-Muslim harassment against Somali high school students.

"Our goal is to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all students," said Taneeza Islam, civil rights director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Decades after the beginning of the civil rights movement, no student should be constantly subjected to racial slurs or harassment at school."

Justin Hamilton, press secretary for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said the department’s Office for Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, color or national origin by recipients of federal money, such as public schools.

"The complaint we received from Minnesota alleges that there has been discrimination in schools based on national origin, Hamilton said. "There has been no determination of wrongdoing, but we will be there on the ground to look into these issues further to determine what the status is."


The advocacy group, known as CAIR-MN, has argued that the school districts violated the federal Civil Rights Act when they allegedly failed to intervene to stop repeated harassment against Somali students.

Hamilton said the department’s Office of Civil Rights will send investigators to Minnesota to talk to students, school officials and those who filed the complaints.

Islam said the complaints include concerns that administrators did not take students’ complaints of racial and religious harassment seriously.

Steve Jordahl, the St. Cloud schools superintendent, said he is not surprised with the department's decision to follow up on the complaint. He added that the district conducted its own internal investigation, which found that most of the complaints lacked sufficient evidence.

"We were just hoping that we didn't have to go through this," Jordahl said. "We thought we did enough with our own internal investigations and maybe that would be a way to resolve some of this, but we understand that the complaint is still out there and that it's going to be looked into,"

What To Read Next
Get Local