Muslim civil rights group says harassment is on the rise in Minnesota schools

Tech high school
A student at Tech high school in St. Cloud, Minn., created a group called "I hate the Somalians at Tech High", a tangible sign of the racial tensions growing in St. Cloud area schools.
MPR Photo/Ambar Espinoza

A Muslim civil rights group says racial and religious tensions in Minnesota public schools are on the rise -- and they're asking the U.S. Department of Education to investigate.

A growing number of Muslim high school students are reporting harassment from other students, teachers and even a bus driver, according to Lori Saroya, president of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR).

Saroya says the worst complaints that students filed with her group come from outside the Twin Cities.

"But the bigger problem that we're seeing is from St. Cloud and Owatonna--some of the non-Twin Cities metro schools. And they're just so severe," said Saroya.

Steve Jordahl, St. Cloud Area School District 742 superintendent, said he is only aware of one incident out of four St. Cloud examples cited by the group. He said his district is conducting an internal investigation.

Jordahl said said he welcomes extra help to address the issue, because racial tensions in his school district go beyond the school.

"Most of the issues that we deal with come from outside of the community. They don't start internally. And so it becomes a community-wide, district-wide, state-wide, nationwide issue to have to deal with and so we really do believe we need the additional resources to help us out," Jordahl said.