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Black students in Duluth disciplined at higher rate

ALSO: Students sit during national anthem in Mankato; Indigenous Peoples/Treaty Day marked in Bemidji; a Norwegian-American encounters his roots; and more.

Although black males represent less than 5 percent of students enrolled in the Duluth district, they made up 20 percent of out-of-school suspensions between 2008 and 2014, according to data reviewed by the Duluth News Tribune. Jana Hollingsworth writes that in contrast, white males make up 43 percent of enrollment and received about 41 percent of the out-of-school suspensions during that same period. “The district has made reducing suspensions a priority, partly through changes in how it handles punishment for nonviolent behavior,” Hollingsworth writes. “It is also working with its educators and other staff to help them gain better understanding of different cultures and backgrounds.”

At Minnesota State University-Mankato’s homecoming football game Saturday, about 60 black students and their supporters stayed seated during the national anthem. Tim Krohn of the Mankato Free Press writes that the silent protest brought some jeers from the students near them. Coordinator Rosalin Cobb said they simply wanted to raise awareness about police shootings of unarmed blacks and racism. “We don’t want to stir people up, but just get people in Mankato to talk about this,” said Cobb.

About 30 protesters gathered near the Chief Shaynowishkung statue near Lake Bemidji on Monday to mark Indigenous Peoples/Treaty Day and to protest the continued existence of Columbus Day. Grace Pastoor of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that Curtis Buckanaga, who organized the protest, said he is disappointed that Columbus Day was not abolished, and that the climate in Bemidji has become more intolerant. “It was kind of a half-hearted thing because … they didn’t abolish Columbus Day at all,” Buckanaga said. Later Monday, about 80 people attended a panel discussion about the newly proclaimed holiday at Bemidji State University. Despite some dissatisfaction with the Bemidji City Council’s proclamation, the panelists spoke in favor of the holiday. “We bore this history that we’ve been talking about for too long by ourselves. … We’ve been bearing the brunt of it and we’re still standing,” said Kathryn Beaulieu, a Red Lake member and former tribal historian.

Jeff Johnson, who grew up in North Dakota and lives in Minneapolis, didn’t know much about his Norwegian heritage nor about the reality show “Alt for Norge” before he appeared on it. John Lamb of the Fargo Forum writes that since Johnson appeared on the show, he has a much greater appreciation for his heritage. The show, which translates to “All for Norway,” brings Americans of Norwegian descent to Norway and films them as they complete tasks such as choking down a lutefisk dinner. Johnson grew up steeped in Norwegian stoicism – his grandfather emigrated in 1867 and his father grew up speaking Norwegian until he started school. “I’m more grateful for the Norwegian-ness I had. Growing up, I would not have looked at my upbringing with as grateful eye as I had before. … When you discover how deep your roots are, your branches get really strong,” he said.

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The plan to dredge Fountain Lake in Albert Lea took an important step forward when the Shell Rock River Watershed District approved drainage plans. Sarah Stultz of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that agencies such as the state Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will assess the plan and make a decision soon. At issue is how to handle the 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment from the lake. The project is expected to cost $15 million, with $7.5 million coming from the state and the rest from a half-percent sales tax. According to the Shell Rock River Watershed District, the average water quality in the 555-acre lake has been below MPCA standards for more than 10 years. Dredging the lake will hopefully refresh it to the point where it can meet state water quality standards.

Here’s a police report of a scary clown that wasn’t found in Swanville: “Report at 10:11 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 5) from a caller who was being harassed on Facebook by a person stating that he was a clown and outside their residence and they weren’t home. The caller stated he searched the area on the 7400 block of Balcony Road in Swanville but did not see a clown.”

Here’s a report of some kids who took the scary clown thing too far: An 11-year-old boy in Crookston was biking to Taco John’s when he was chased by several teens, one of whom was dressed like a clown. The Grand Forks Herald reports that the boy called his grandmother who then called police, who had received several calls about people wearing “clown paraphernalia” blocking traffic. Police found a 16-year-old female and two 15-year-old males, one of which was wearing a clown costume and had a “large kitchen/butcher style” knife. Criminal charges are pending. 

Speaking of public safety, a 75-year-old Brainerd man was injured Sunday night when he drove into a large round hay bale that was in the middle of Crow Wing County Highway 3, northeast of Brainerd. The Brainerd Dispatch reports that police found at least four of the hay bales around the roadway. 

Lakeview Elementary in Albert Lea went on lockdown twice Monday after police received a report of a teenager with a gun down the street from the school. Sam Wilmes of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that police arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection to the incidents. The first report cited a teenager seen walking along the railroad bed shirtless with a long gun. Police and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputies “secured a perimeter and canvassed the area,” during which the school went into lockdown. They called off the search at about 11 a.m. and received another report at about 12:30 p.m. of a person carrying what appeared to be a long gun. This caused the school to go into lockdown again. When police found the teen, “he reportedly explained he was hunting with his Daisy pump-action BB gun,” Wilmes reports.

A man described as “the main source of methamphetamine” in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota pleaded guilty last week to a felony second-degree drug possession charge. Gretchen Brown of the West Central Tribune reports that Alejandro Mendez, 24, of Granite Falls, is expected to be sentenced to nearly five years in prison as part of a plea agreement. Mendez was first detained after a June traffic stop in which police found methamphetamine, a large amount of U.S. currency and a digital scale in the vehicle. Police observed a call Mendez made from the Kandiyohi County Jail which prompted them to obtain a search warrant for a Granite Falls residence and found 1.75 pounds of meth.  

The planned addition at Willmar High School will cost about $600,000 less than originally planned. Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune reports that the original estimate for the gymnastics room, fitness room and two-court wood floor gymnasium was $7.5 million. The contracts awarded Monday, including some add-ons, was $6.9 million, a difference of $613,000. “We feel real good about that,” said Preston Euerle, president of R.A. Morton Construction Managers. The addition is one of three projects in a $52.35 million package of improvements approved by district voters in May 2015. 

The Austin Symphony Orchestra will start its 60th season on Oct. 30. Eric Johnson of the Austin Daily Herald reports that the Matchbox Children’s Theatre will join the orchestra to act out parts of “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev. Other selections for the opening concert include “Night on Bald Mountain,” John Williams’ “The Superman March,” and “Batman” by Danny Elfman.