At the Osseo School Board meeting on March 23, the board voted to approve a resolution condemning xenophobic, racist, and all anti-Asian attacks elevated by COVID-19. The resolution passed 5-1.
According to the resolution, Osseo Area Schools is home to approximately 3,956 students of Asian descent, accounting for over 19% of the student body, many of them are from refugee and immigrant communities. The Osseo Area School District is also the employer of 162 staff members who identify as Asian Pacific Islander (API), comprising 3.95% of all staff.
Vice-chair Jackie Mosqueda-Jones said she has been trying to bring the resolution up for a year, and now it finally gets approved. “It is past time for this,” she said.
This resolution comes one week after a gunman shot and killed eight people on March 16 in Atlanta, six of them women of Asian descent. The motive of the gunman is still under investigation, but many believe that it involved some form of racial prejudice, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jenny Yang is a parent of a second-grade student in the Osseo School District. “It is unfortunate that it took the death of six Asian-American women for people to wake up and see the heightened racism and violence towards Asian-Americans during the pandemic,” Yang said. “Many in my community are scared to go out in public spaces where we could be targeted because of who we are and how we look.”
Michelle Chang, lead organizer for education at the Coalition of Asian-American Leaders (CAAL), said that while racism against Asian-Americans is not new, she hopes this resolution can be a catalyst for racial equality throughout the district. “I want youth to be proud of their Asian heritage and not be afraid to show up as their fullest selves at school,” Chang said.
While the resolution passed, there was some disagreement regarding the second-to-last clause that read “Osseo Area Schools commits to partnering with public and private institutions/organizations working to address xenophobia and racism directed toward Asian and Pacific Islanders in Minnesota.”
Board members Heather Douglass and Tanya Simons both spoke out and said they wanted more specific details as to how they would partner with organizations logistically. “The language in this is a little bit ambiguous,” Simons said. “It doesn’t identify what it looks like.”
Other board members said that the specific details weren’t as important compared to the need to approve this resolution for the API community.
“As a school board member, I am proud to work for a district that seeks to collaborate with public and private organizations to condemn anti-Asian hate,” board member Tamara Grady said.
“This is a statement of support for our API families,” Mosqueda-Jones said.
The board plans to continue engaging with API community members to understand what further actions need to take place for the board to be held accountable after approving the resolution.
Regardless of the nuances in the document, the resolution was passed and the district took another step in its push to cultivate a community of racial equality. “We want all of our students to feel valued and safe in our district,” board chair Kelsey Dawson Walton said. “It’s an opportunity to show that we won’t stand for hate.”
Simons was the only dissenting vote.