News

Rally held to protest racial bullying, hate speech

Brian Larsen


Jennifer Shoals was one of about two dozen people who came to the microphone on Sunday to voice her concerns about racist bullying and hate speech that have taken place in I.S.D. 166. A recent racial bullying incident at school has caused a family to pull their two daughters from school and put their house up for sale. According to the people who came forward Sunday, bullying in multiple forms has occurred at Cook County High School for many years. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen Jennifer Shoals was one of about two dozen people who came to the microphone on Sunday to voice her concerns about racist bullying and hate speech that have taken place in I.S.D. 166. A recent racial bullying incident at school has caused a family to pull their two daughters from school and put their house up for sale. According to the people who came forward Sunday, bullying in multiple forms has occurred at Cook County High School for many years. Staff photo/Brian Larsen A recent incident of racial bullying that occurred at I.S.D. 166 was the spark that ignited a community wide discussion about how to end racial harassment and hate speech in the schools and community.

On Sunday, October 1 at 2 p.m. Grand Marais Harbor Park was filled with more than 135 participants who were there to voice their concerns and take a stand against discrimination in our schools and community.

Pat Campanaro, co-founder of Arrowhead Indivisible and Pastor Beth Benson of the United Church of Christ (UCC) were the lead organizers.


Delwyn Wilson, with 2017 Grand Portage Tiny Tot Princess Nevaeh Deschampe holding onto him, read a piece created by Nevaeh asking people to be like leaves. Leaves of all colors appear on the same tree in the fall and live in harmony. Why, then, can’t people of all colors live together like leaves in peace and harmony? Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. 
Staff photos/Brian Larsen Delwyn Wilson, with 2017 Grand Portage Tiny Tot Princess Nevaeh Deschampe holding onto him, read a piece created by Nevaeh asking people to be like leaves. Leaves of all colors appear on the same tree in the fall and live in harmony. Why, then, can’t people of all colors live together like leaves in peace and harmony? Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. Staff photos/Brian Larsen The last incident reported at I.S.D. 166 was the breaking point for a family with two girls who had suffered racial bullying for the past two years while in school. The family has put their house on the market and announced their intentions to leave the community.

Almost two dozen people spoke about incidents that have happened to them. Not all of the incidents centered on race, but came from people who were bullied for their sexuality, or other reasons.


Joe Paulik filled Grand Marais Harbor Park with soul-searching music during the rally against racism and bullying on Sunday. Joe performs throughout the region and often lends his voice at the park for rallies against injustice. “My hope is to enhance the awareness of our connection to the earth, the philosophy and skill of living with the earth and nature, and the process of healing through sound, music and video.” Joe Paulik filled Grand Marais Harbor Park with soul-searching music during the rally against racism and bullying on Sunday. Joe performs throughout the region and often lends his voice at the park for rallies against injustice. “My hope is to enhance the awareness of our connection to the earth, the philosophy and skill of living with the earth and nature, and the process of healing through sound, music and video.” In the case of Gus Person, who dropped out of CCHS because of being bullied throughout his years in school, he wasn’t sure why he was constantly bullied. But Persons called on the audience to follow what he has been taught at home. He said he was raised in a home that called on him to respect others’ race, religion, and cultural differences, as well as someone’s physical, mental or emotional makeup. Follow those rules and you won’t bully anyone, he promised.

Jack Willis is a current student at CCHS. Willis said he has been bullied and assaulted at school. Jack wondered if bullying came from kids who were themselves bullied. Whatever the cause, Willis said he would report any bullying he sees to proper authorities.

A graduate of I.S.D. 166 Cook County School District, Isabel Wahlers, was bullied incessantly, first for the color of her beautiful brown skin, then because she came out and announced she was transgender. “There was a boy who would bully me 24/7. It got so bad that I had to take a week off of school.”

In fact, said Wahlers, a 4.0 student in college, the bullying pushed her to attempting suicide multiple times. Through tears and with her grandmother hugging her as she spoke, Wahlers added, “With what’s going on with the school right now, I really think that something like this, it just brings a lot of love.”

One lady said in grade school kids called her an “apple” because she was red on the outside and white on the inside. She was the only native child in an all-white grade school. She didn’t take the insults lying down, and fought a lot. “My nose was broken more than once,” she said. It took her years to get over the emotional abuse, and some of the past incidents led her to act out in unhealthy ways as a young lady. She asked that bullying stop so no kid would have to go through the same kinds of treatment she endured.

Chuck Viren grew up in Cook County. He left for college and then moved around for work before returning. Viren said he spent a lot of years employed as a school teacher and cautioned that schools need to be a safe place for kids. “I think that the standard here is that we should not be satisfied until every child in our school district feels physically and emotionally safe,” he said.

Co-founder of Arrowhead Indivisible Denny FitzPatrick called the Sunday rally, “A very powerful and moving gathering. This shows that our community is ready to stand together and find a way to move forward to end racial harassment and hate speech in our community.”

After people were done voicing concerns or told about bullying incidents that happened to himself or herself or a loved one, Pat Campanaro spoke.

Campanaro announced this rally was only the first step in an ongoing process. Next Sunday there will be another rally with more to follow. Arrowhead Indivisible called for a special meeting with the school board, which Campanaro later said was denied by the administration.

Still Campanaro left the door wide open for I.S.D. 166.

“Arrowhead Indivisible is anxious to partner with both the school board and the administration on a positive action plan to eliminate discrimination from our schools. The stories we heard from students today broke my heart. Every child deserves to be both emotionally and physically secure in our schools, as Chuck Viren so eloquently stated. The time to act is now!”


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