FBI agents visited the St. Cloud, Minn., school district this week after a Somali-American man went on a stabbing rampage Saturday at a local mall, injuring 10 people before an off-duty police officer shot and killed him, the St. Cloud Times reports.
Tensions between Muslims and some non-Muslims in the central Minnesota city have simmered for years, including incidents of bullying and harassment of Somali and other East African immigrants in schools.
School board member Al Dahlgren said St. Cloud schools Superintendent Willie Jett was with FBI agents throughout the day, as a precautionary measure, adding that “there has been very little disruption for the students,” according to the Times.
“I don’t want people to think that there’s a connection between the schools and the incident, because that’s not true,” Dahlgren told the newspaper. “The FBI are here both as a part of the investigation and as an extra security measure, which I think is a normal thing when there’s an incident like that in the community. They’re trying to make it as normal as possible for the students.”
Education Week visited the St. Cloud school system this year to take a look at how the district adjusted to its growing immigrant population. Somali families began resettling in the city in large numbers at the turn of the century, and their children have become fixtures in the schools—more than 16 percent of the district’s students are Somali.
The majority of the Somali community is Muslim. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal civil rights complaint against the St. Cloud school district in 2011, alleging a hostile environment for the district’s Somali students that included widespread and frequent harassment, much of it based on religion.
Remnants of that tension remain. Discord at St. Cloud’s Technical High School erupted in spring 2015 when students and parents, most of them Somali, alleged that school officials did not adequately respond to bullying incidents and anti-Islamic discrimination.
There are fears the hostility could resurface as more details emerge about the mall attacks. The man accused in the stabbing spree was Dahir Ahmed Adan, a graduate of the district’s Apollo High School. According to police, Adan asked at least one person if they were Muslim and made references to Allah while carrying out the attacks. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.
District leaders released a statement this week, urging a measured response to the incident, which has the community on edge.
“We recognize the deep emotions and concern felt throughout the community, and are prepared to support members of our school community affected by this event,” the district statement read.
”... we want to assure families that we prioritize safety and security in our buildings and proactively prepare and practice safety procedures in each of our schools so that students and staff remain safe while in our care.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.