‘Deeply troubled’: Hopkins parents petition school board for improved safety in schools

The petitioning parents asked the school district to reinstate school resource officers.

Ashley Ashbeck presented the petition to the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting. (Hopkins Public Schools/YouTube)

A petition was presented to the Hopkins School Board during a June 11 meeting, calling on the board to provide a safe environment for students in Hopkins Public Schools following a violent incident that occurred at the end of May.

“We, the undersigned members of the Hopkins Public Schools community, are deeply concerned about the violent assault last Thursday against a transgender student at Hopkins High School,” the petition reads. “Just two days prior, there were three fights at the high school and the police were called to prevent a fourth.”

The petition was signed by 240 “parents, caregivers, students, and community members.”

“Culture Night was subsequently canceled after threats of violence surfaced. These incidents are part of a broader pattern and highlight the urgent need for improved safety and enforcement of anti-bullying measures in Hopkins Public Schools,” the petition adds.

Ashley Ashbeck presented the petition to the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting, drawing attention to the more than 2,000 students who transferred to other school districts prior to the start of the school year.

“We are deeply troubled by the underwhelming approach to school safety in our district,” Ashbeck said.

Ashbeck discussed the assault of a transgender student that has dominated national news coverage recently. “Rightly so, but there have been many other fights, threats of violence, and classroom disruptions over the past several years,” she said.

She and the petitioning parents also asked the school district to reinstate school resource officers.

“There has been a troubling increase in physical violence and classroom disruptions in Hopkins, especially since the non-renewal of the School Resource Officer (SRO) contract with the Minnetonka Police Department in 2020,” the petition says. “Following the end of the SRO partnership, there has also been a significant weakening of behavior management practices and a disturbing lack of appropriate consequences for student misconduct.”

The assault of a transgender student at Hopkins High School took place on May 30, with many calling it a hate crime.

Media reports say that Cobalt Sovereign, a boy who identifies as a girl, was punched after confronting a student who referred to Sovereign as a “f—-t.” However, the Hopkins Black Student Alliance says that there is more to the story.

“An incident happened in our school which affected two communities, the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community,” the student group said in a statement. “We see one side of the story being told, yet there are reports of racial slurs being used within this incident elevating this to another level.”

This is not the first violent incident that occurred recently at the high school. As Ashbeck mentioned, police have been called to the school several times, with one incident prompting a shelter-in-place order last month.

“All children in our district deserve to feel safe at school,” Ashbeck said. “We ask for your immediate action to secure a secure and supportive learning environment.”

Superintendent Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed discussed the district’s safety efforts earlier in the meeting.

“It’s really important for our community to understand all of the work that has been done to create safe and secure conditions for our students. We pride ourselves on creating conditions of belonging where each student can show up as their true, authentic self,” she said. “We pride ourselves on frequently meeting and addressing the holistic safety of our students. When we use that term holistic, we mean safety that includes physical, psychological, social, behavioral safety of our students.”

She then presented a slide on “some of the measures” that have been taken to address safety and security, including gender inclusion and anti-racism policies.

Hopkins Public Schools/YouTube

“Communicate clear messages of love and high expectations for all students,” the slide says.

She did note that the district has suspended 102 students at the high school and 146 students at the middle schools this year. “Some people think we’re not suspending kids at all,” she said. “No, no. We are suspending and we are over-suspending. And we need to figure out how we can work differently and more thoughtfully to infuse restorative practices in our discipline measures so that we are not over-suspending and we are not disproportionately suspending our black and brown students, which does reflect what’s happening nationwide.”

Mhiripiri-Reed presented another slide on the steps the district hopes to take in the future to address safety.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.