Some parents are concerned that officials in White Bear Lake Area Schools are not taking student violence seriously after a disturbing video of a fight surfaced on social media earlier this month.
The video shows a boy assaulting another student by whipping him with a belt in a school bathroom while onlookers record the incident.
One parent said his child was assaulted in the same manner by the same boy last year. He pulled his son from the district and said he was not surprised at all by the video.
“It’s been the same problem over and over with this kid. I know of three other sets of parents whose kids went to school with him last year,” he said. “Last year, he was in middle school. Now that same kid is in high school and now it’s happening at the high school.”
Another parent said her son was repeatedly whipped with a belt on the bus and called a “cracker” last year by the same boy.
“I talked to everyone, and they all brushed it under the rug. They said they already talked to the boy’s parents and it had been handled. They wouldn’t tell me how,” she said.
Parents who spoke with Alpha News said they feel the student is not being disciplined because he is black and cited a 2017 letter from former Department of Human Services Commissioner Kevin Lindsay, who investigated schools with racial disparities in their student discipline records.
Safety concerns are becoming an issue statewide. Parents at White Bear Lake High School said students frequently post “full-blown fights” to their Snapchat accounts.
“It’s frustrating because parents naively put their kids into this school, and they have no idea what’s going on,” one mom said.
Legal experts agree violence in public schools is becoming increasingly common.
“I’ve heard from many, many parents that it is happening everywhere all the time. I’ve heard it from the Saint Louis Park schools. I’ve heard about it from the schools in Mankato,” according to Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center. “There used to be an occasional fistfight at school and the school would promptly do something and that would be that. Now, they do nothing. So, of course students feel they have a license to continue to engage in this conduct.”
Seaton said schools should be liable if a student gets hurt because policies prevent disciplining violent students.
“If they are not doing so, someone must stand up and challenge them on it,” he said.
The violence, coupled with low academic performance, has some families fleeing the district.
“Most parents I know are trying to look at outside sources such as private schools or charter schools … to get their kids out of there,” one parent said.
Seaton encouraged parents to contact UMLC if they feel their concerns relating to violence at school are not being addressed by their district.
“Student safety is a primary consideration in our school and in our district. We are aware of the incident that was caught on video and shared by students,” said White Bear Lake Area Schools Director of Communications Marisa Vette. “Our school staff members have worked with the students and families involved to resolve the situation. Due to student data privacy considerations, no additional information is available.”
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.