letter to editor stock art typewriter and notebook

I am biracial, both white and east Indian. My parents were not rich, but did everything they could to make sure my brother and I experienced living in other countries. I had the privilege of learning with people from different cultures in public schools in the Caribbean, Europe and India.

I was 15 years old when my parents divorced and we moved back to the United States, to a small town in southern Minnesota.

As a public school student in a small town in southern Minnesota, I dealt with ridiculous questions and comments that I chalked up to ignorance. Does your family own a gas station? Do you really eat spiders and monkey brains? Is your dad a terrorist?

Then there were the kids who would shout “sand n****r” or “camel jockey.” This was harder to deal with. Words are powerful and have an immense effect on young, impressionable minds. Eventually, I dropped out of high school and my family moved away. It took years to pick up the pieces to graduate and move on to college.

Since then, and especially since I’ve started mentally preparing for my oldest child to start school this fall, I’ve found myself wondering why no one stood up for my brother and I.

My husband and I moved to Chaska because we assumed that things would be better for my two children, if nothing else because Chaska isn’t a “small town,” despite what city leaders label it.

We hoped they’d learn from teachers of all backgrounds, as I did before I moved to Minnesota. Teachers who, because of their own experiences, would know when, why, and how to stand up for their students of color, and who would model for our kids the type of allies I want them to be.

But, like parents who spoke at the April 22 school board meeting, I’m beginning to believe that we have made a poor decision. Listening to parents and students speak during the open forum portion of the meeting left me shaken. Each told almost the same story. Children routinely targeted by classmates and parents left with no support.

I am, however, filled with hope because we have so many amazing parents and students that are fighting for our kids in a way that I wish had happened years ago when I was in school.

The demands outlined in a community-led petition (http://bit.ly/ISD112Petition) they shared that night are clear, well-reasoned and reparative.

While they collectively will take some time to implement, the District 112 School Board can very easily demonstrate they are listening by firing the Chaska High School principal immediately in order to begin to regain the public trust all citizens should be able to count on.

Melissa Schoenberg

Chaska

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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