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Minneapolis High School Principals Sound Off On Social Media About Student Safety Concerns

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- High school principals across Minneapolis say crime is putting their students at risk.

Mauri Friestleben, principal of North Community High School, is part of a coalition of seven principals in the city that posted a message online that highlights how violent crime is impacting students.

"We have had students who have been walking home or walking to the bus stop and they have been robbed, and told to empty their pockets, hand over their cellphones," Friestleben said. "I really would like to know what the public safety plan is. I don't see it."

This is not just a north Minneapolis thing. Washburn High School principal Dr. Emily Lilja Palmer also shared the post, and said that carjacking and robberies are up on the south side. She also added that the city is in crisis, and it's hurting students. She said there are discussions currently happening about how to keep kids safe as they leave from winter activities in the dark.

North High School student body president Khadija Ba says a lot of her classmates don't feel safe.

"It's not fair for us to have to constantly live in fear," Ba said. "I live right down the street from the school, and, you know, just a couple days ago I almost had a gun pulled on me just walking home. I want to be able to go home and get my stuff and feel protected."

Friestleben says dismissal time at the end of the day is particularly unnerving, with strange cars circling the school lately, among other things.

"It feels like they're vulnerable," Friestleben said. "They're young people inside of vehicles we don't recognize them they don't go to our school, they don't look like they're in high school, maybe older, but that has been unsettling for our kids. Maybe people who are preying on vulnerable people could be using that as a time where they know they can maybe get quick access to cellphones or cash."

She says many students and staff wish they still had a school resource officer. Dr. Palmer echoes this disconnect between public safety and schooling since SROs were eliminated.

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"It feels as though we're not getting the proper attention that we need to get. It seems as though we're not getting the proper resources that we're supposed to get," Ba said. "I want to have real, just people who care about us, honestly, people who don't just see us as a statistic."

WCCO spoke with Dr. Heidi Bausch-Ryan with Care Counseling about the impacts of stress.

"What we know is that chronic experience of stress can have a strain or a drain on the body and brain," Bausch-Ryan said. "How do we build resilience within our relationships, our community and within ourselves?"

She suggested referring to the three S's to ease prolonged stress: Supports, strategies and sayings.

* Supports -- Identify people you can bring in that help you feel grounded. Mentors, teachers, friends, family, community members.

* Strategies -- Dr. Bausch-Ryan says anything that utilizes the five senses can be calming, and bring us back to the present moment.

"I know some people that wrap a blanket around them to feel that sense of soothing or calming," she said.

Essential oils or your favorite music are other examples she gave, along with breathing mindfully from your diaphragm.

* Sayings -- Dr. Bausch-Ryan says repeating words or phrases to yourself that help to bring a sense of grounding to your brain or body will be helpful.

She says all of these things are easier said than done, but they're critical as a community navigates challenges

"How do you build that sense of community and connection, to help to cultivate resilience as a community together as you're navigating these stressors with one another," Bausch-Ryan said. "It's so important for communities to build resilience together when there's all these different dimensions or layers of stress. This can be a time where community members lean in and support once another and come together in the ways that are meaningful."

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