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Muslim group sounds alarms over Stillwater Area school bus threat

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has issued a call for increased protection of Muslim students after an incident earlier this month between two students at Afton-Lakeland Elementary School.

A fifth-grader at the school allegedly threatened to shoot a third-grader, who is Somali-American, and the next school day brought an airsoft-style pistol onto the school bus, officials said.

The bus driver reported the incident and the school called the Washington County sheriff's office the morning of Nov. 14.

The threatened child's parents, who live in Woodbury, had earlier called the school and CAIR-MN to report the threat, said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.

Although the case has been forwarded to the Washington County attorney's office for possible charging, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said Tuesday that he did not believe it was an anti-Muslim attack.

"During the course of our investigation, there was nothing that led us to believe that this was a hate crime," Hutton said. "There was a dispute between two kids during the previous week, obviously they don't get along, and one pointed a replica gun at the kid and made statements."

Stillwater Area School District officials said they could not comment on the specifics of the case due to data-privacy laws.

In a written statement, school district officials said: "We had a situation earlier this month where a student brought an air soft pistol on the bus. As demonstrated by the quick action of the bus driver, we take threats to any of our students very seriously. School administrators cooperated fully with local law enforcement to keep our students safe and resolve the matter without incident. Staff members in our district are dedicated and committed to maintaining a safe and respectful learning environment for all of our students."

Powered by a spring and compressed air, airsoft guns fire a nonlethal projectile, usually made of plastic.

"Bullying always happens, but right now we have to be extra vigilant," said Hussein of CAIR-MN.

Hussein said CAIR-MN is investigating several recent incidents, including female Muslim students in Coon Rapids and St. Louis Park having their head scarves pulled off and thrown to the ground.

"We are asking all school districts across the state to step up protection for Muslim and other minority students in the wake of these incidents and because of the wave of racist and anti-Muslim incidents nationwide following the Nov. 8 election," he said.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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