North Minneapolis school leader talks about trauma felt by students amid violence in community |

North Minneapolis school leader talks about trauma felt by students amid violence in community

Eric Chaloux
Updated: September 20, 2021 06:07 PM
Created: September 20, 2021 04:44 PM

There were sounds of gunshots last week down the street from Legacy of Dr. Josie R. Johnson Montessori School in Minneapolis.

Students didn't go outside for recess on that day, nor have they gone out since school started due to safety concerns, according to staff.

"Not only is the trauma and the drama that is happening in the streets, it's impacting those particular families, it's spreading throughout the community. The concern, the fear, the trepidation, the stress — it's impacting our children in great ways," said Tonicia Abdur Salaam, the school’s co-founder.

JJ Legacy has created safe spaces in the various classrooms in the building. For example, a big, comfy chair — away from the rest of the students, for any child who needs time away from stress in their life for any reason or needs to receive special attention.

"Our No. 1 responsibly is to keep them safe in mind, body and soul," Abdur Salaam said. “There's a lot we can do in-house and out-of-house to make sure our babies find sense of safety."

The K-6 school has around 120 students on its campus on the 5100 block of Fremont Avenue North, which also houses an early childhood center.

Finding ways to navigate the trauma in order to bring healing to kids in need is what the principal said helps drive the staff.

"We press so hard to touch their spirits every day, to take care of their hearts first, because if you take care of a child's heart first you can do anything in terms of their minds," Abdur Salaam said.

The school's co-founder recalled a conversation a student had not too long ago with a teacher about safety concerns in the community.

“To say, ‘I just don't want to die' ... that's trauma, that's an unreasonable amount of stress," Abdur Salaam said about that student’s conversation with a teacher.

As a surge in crime has hit neighborhoods in Minneapolis this year, Abdur Salaam spoke about her message to community leaders.

"We've got to put politics aside, we have to put the need to be right, and the need to be seen in a particular way to the side, we're dealing with children's lives," she said.

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