MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Be alarmed. That’s what the principal of Lucy Craft Laney Community School at Cleveland Park in north Minneapolis is asking the community after gunfire whizzed dangerously close to her third graders last week while they were outside.
“The lack of the alarm is what we are regularly fighting against, the underlying messaging this is normalized everyday reality and no one is shocked -- is what makes it normal and everyday,” said Mauri Friestleben, Lucy Laney principal.
Minneapolis Police are still searching for the people and vehicles involved in the afternoon shootout near 34th and Penn Avenue, where gunfire was exchanged just after 1 p.m. on Friday, November 17.
Third graders were outside trying on cross country skis as part of a Loppet ski program, and many tried to run inside with skis still on. Students reported hearing three to five shots, and a witness outside the elementary school noticed a red car involved driving away.
“The kids are trying to explain casings,” said Friestleben. “I need people to know that shouldn’t be normal, third graders shouldn’t be able to explain bullet casings, in my opinion.”
Friestleben put the school into a code yellow, locking all outside doors, signaling danger outside the school.
“You have got this four-block hot zone, from Lowry to 36th – everybody knows it, and you’ve got the only elementary school and daycare in the middle of this four-block hot zone,” she said.
Once she realized all the students were safe and unharmed, she placed a robo-call to parents.
“So I’ve got to make this robo-call on a Friday afternoon, to reaffirm everybody’s worst nightmares, shots fired during the school while children are outside,” said Friestleben.
In the call, Friestleben shared her heartache with parents.
“I just want to acknowledge this is not how I ever want to send your students school week here at school, as you know it is often an uphill battle, just know we are okay, we moved quickly and speedily, everyone is fine,” said Friestleben, in the recorded call.
She hung up the phone and waited for the office phones to ring and the front door buzzers to sound, as worried parents frantically called or rushed to pick up their children. The memory of that moment brings her to tears.
“You give your students and families and permission to be alarmed but when you do that, you also risk a secondary risk of reaffirming negative stereotypes about your community. The things you can hear in your head, well, that’s the Northside, that’s black people for you, that’s poor people for you,” said Friestleben. “All these things that abdicate us as a society of any mutual responsibility.”
She wants the public to consider their own responsibility in sharing the alarm of children dodging bullets, and the unfair stereotypes that come along with him.
“It’s the soil. It’s the fact that we allow the soil in some parts of our city to get so toxified, that what grows out of the soil is choked from the ground up. So, somebody shooting around children, yes, it is about the audacity, the selfishness of being willing to take your life and the lives of children, but it’s more than that, it’s a self-neglect, and self-hatred, to me, it’s a suicidal ideation, that we haven’t quite been able to capture or understand,” said Friestleben.
“Let the children go to school in peace,” she said.