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Following racist remarks, Esko, Cloquet staff meet with Fond du Lac leaders

The meeting came after the Band issued a statement asking the superintendents to take swift action following racist remarks made by Esko and Cloquet students on Snapchat.

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CLOQUET — In light of a recent incident where students made racist comments about Native Americans over social media, administrators from the Esko and Cloquet school districts met with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's Reservation Business Council earlier this week.

The incident, which took place Thursday, March 17, involved a conversation over Snapchat among students from Cloquet and Esko high schools in which the students made "racist remarks and threats directed toward Native students and the Tribe," according to a letter sent by Band Chairman Kevin Dupuis to the superintendents. A screenshot of the exchange circulated over social media.

Cloquet Superintendent Michael Cary and Esko Superintendent Aaron Fischer did not respond to requests for comment regarding the details of the discussion, but Cary told the Pine Journal the meeting happened Tuesday, March 22.

The meeting came after Dupuis released a statement asking the superintendents for a swift response to ensure such behavior does not happen again.

"We want to receive an immediate response from the school districts and school leadership on how you intend to address this situation, not only with the specific students involved in the incident, but also with the larger student-body community," Dupuis said in the statement.

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Due to student data privacy laws, Cary said he could not comment on the disciplinary action taken toward the students, but condemned the behavior at the Monday, March 21, school board meeting.

Cary went on to say that providing a safe environment for the district’s students is of the utmost importance.

“We’re always looking at student safety, and always making sure that we feel our environment is safe for our students, and trying to make sure that we’ve got a great environment for our kids," he said.

The day after the incident occurred, Cary released a statement to Cloquet School District staff members and families: “Late last evening we were informed of a disturbing conversation via social media. The Cloquet High School Administration and the Cloquet American Indian Education leadership share this clear and united statement: Our school community will not tolerate racial profiling or any racist or hate language.”

Fischer expressed similar sentiments in his statement on behalf of the Esko School District Administration.

“On behalf of these students, we apologize for the harm this incident has done or may do to other human beings inside and outside of our school or at the neighboring school referenced in the message.”

Of the 2,400 K-12 students enrolled in Cloquet schools, 18% are of American Indian descent, according to the district website.

The Esko School District’s American Indian population is 1.3% of its 1,275 enrolled students, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

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Bullying of American Indian students is a problem across the state, according to a 2019 State of Indian Education report conducted by MDE's Office of Indian Education.

Fifth grade American Indian students in Minnesota schools reported being bullied daily at rates three times higher than their white peers, according to the report. American Indian students in grade 11 reported similar to even higher rates of bullying in school, the report said.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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