Jul 28, 2014
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Washburn Students Disciplined in "Disturbing" Race Incident

Principal calls incident "intolerable."

Washburn Students Disciplined in "Disturbing" Race Incident

According to an open letter penned by Principal Carol Markham-Cousins, three Washburn High School students are in trouble for allegedly hanging a dark-skinned baby doll from a piece of string in a school stairwell on Jan. 11. 

According to the Star-Tribune, four students were involved.

The students then posted the image on several social media websites, according to the letter (reproduced below). School security cameras recorded the incident and the students were the subjects of unspecified disciplinary action when the incident was uncovered that same day. School administrators, the letter read, will "promote open dialogue" within the school community to talk about race issues and build respect between students.

Markham-Cousins' letter suggests the three students used the image to mock or bully their classmates online. It's not yet publicly clear what impact the incident has had on the school community. Rumors circulating early Thursday afternoon suggested a rally of some sort would take place later in the day, but reporter and Washburn parent David Brauer said no school-sponsored gathering was scheduled to take place.

Minneapolis Public Schools officials did not immediately return Patch's request to comment on the incident.

Markham-Cousins' letter:

Dear Washburn Community,

This week’s message addresses an incident that happened at our school on Friday, January 11. Near the end of the school day, a small group of students engaged in an insensitive activity that involved dangling a dark-skinned baby doll by its neck with a piece of string. Students recorded the incident and images were posted on social media sites. School security cameras also captured the events.

An image such as the one described causes feelings of anger and humiliation, and we intend to provide a safe space for productive conversations to take place. I was informed after school on Friday and took immediate action. We are committed to following the school district’s code of conduct in any instance of inappropriate behavior.

This is an extremely disturbing occurrence and not reflective of the Miller Pride that we promote. Such insensitive behavior is intolerable in our school and school district, both of which are full of diversity and rich in culture.

Due to the gravity of this incident, we are responding in several ways. Aside from following the school district’s code of conduct in any instance of inappropriate behavior, we will be creating opportunities for these students to take responsibility for their actions through restorative measures. We are also seeking opportunities for students to work with our community partners who provide support services so they have the resources they need to be successful.

Because references have been posted on social media sites and students are talking about the incident, it is imperative that our community receives this message and understands that we are aggressively responding. Parents can help their students be safe on social media by teaching them about appropriate behavior, empathy, and how to report abuse to the website administrators and trusted adults at school or elsewhere.

We will promote open dialogue between students and staff in order to learn from this unfortunate episode and create opportunities to talk about race and respect.

Thank you.

 

Carol Markham-Cousins

Principal, Washburn High School

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