Dozens of frustrated parents and teachers filed into North High School in Minneapolis on Thursday night to demand a safer environment for their students to get to and from school.
A meeting organized by the school's Parent Teacher Association drew more than 100 people, many of whom told elected officials and school leaders about their safety fears after several students have reported dangerous incidents in the surrounding neighborhood.
"Our kids here need the same rights as kids in other communities," parent Briana Thompson said. "I know things like this wouldn't fly in Edina, in Richfield, or in Circle Pines."
The Minneapolis Public Schools district has not provided traditional yellow school buses for high school students for six years, instead giving students a Metro Transit bus pass they can use to get to school. That leaves students often having to walk extra distances.
Next month, the Minneapolis school board will consider a proposed budget amendment that includes adding $1.4 million in "safety and security enhancements." The details of what increased security would look like have yet to be released, but school leaders say the measures come in response to heightened concerns about student safety.
"I share the frustration about where we need to spend resources, and I hope these are temporary measures while our society works to collectively address both the short-term and long-term responses and root causes of what's happening in our community," interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox said at a recent board meeting. "But I also know these steps are necessary."
Cox said the topic of school safety has been "front and center" in conversations with colleagues across the state and country.
"It seems we're now learning weekly of another high school sporting event ended by gunshots," Cox said. "We reiterate our call to policymakers to address this issue so we can return our full focus to student learning and running schools."
School districts around the Twin Cities have been dealing with mounting safety concerns that include gun violence and other threats. At the beginning of this school year, Richfield High School called off a day of classes due to online threats less than a week after a shooting took place at the school's homecoming football game.
North High has felt its own pains, especially after the death of Deshaun Hill, the school's starting quarterback who was shot while walking down the street in a Minneapolis neighborhood in February.
Thursday's PTA meeting raised more safety concerns from students, teachers and parents.
"People always say North isn't a safe school," junior Ayanna Melander said. "North is my favorite place, I'm here all the time ... but it's been called a bad place for such a long time, so how are we making a change?"
North High English teacher Lars Lindqvist read the names of three students he has taught who have been killed during his time teaching at the school, including Hill.
"No student should have to know what it feels like to mourn a classmate," Lindqvist said. "To simply shrug our shoulders and say there is no solution isn't acceptable."
Several elected officials at the meeting, including Mayor Jacob Frey, said they are committed to doing everything they can to make people safe.
Cox said the school's proposed safety plan includes increased monitoring for arrival and dismissal. She also made a commitment to the North High school community to reconsider the removal of yellow school buses.