March 31, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Personnel from the Red Lake High School gathered at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State campus. Teachers who were in the school at the time of the shooting declined to speak with reporters.
For Chris Dunshee, the principal at Red Lake High School, and his staff, the meeting was about helping the survivors get on with life.
"We had a number of support people here that were available for them. Then later we were able to dismiss all those people, and then meet just with ourselves and do what we needed to do to get our stories out, and to share our emotions that we're going through right now," he said.
It appears there was extensive damage to the school building. An e-mail written by Polk County Sheriff's Deputy James Goss to a relative describes the interior.
In the e-mail, Goss wrote "the entire school" was "covered with blood," and there were bullet holes "everywhere."
The Polk County sheriff put Goss on administrative leave for sending the e-mail.
Many students are voicing concern about returning to the Red Lake school.
Diane Lehse, the superintendent of the neighboring Clearbrook-Gonvick school, says her school has not received an influx of transfer requests.
"We have three new students from Red Lake; two of them were students who attended here last year and asked if they could return. One student had made a request about a month ago, and our principal said he had to wait until the beginning of the term," says Lehse.
Getting the kids to return to the school will take time. Red Lake principal Chris Dunshee says it's understandable that some kids don't want to return.
"There's been times when I don't feel like I can walk back into the building right now, and I'm still struggling with that myself," says Dunshee. "A lot of the kids and a lot of the staff were much more immediately involved with things than even I was, so I can certainly identify with those feelings that they're having."
Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren met on Thursday with members of the Red Lake school board, teachers and parents in Bemidji. She says it's not clear when the school district will resume classes, or where. She says the school board will meet on Friday to make those decisions.
She did reveal the district is getting a break from state and federal accountability measures. Seagren says Red Lake's students will not be required to participate in state tests this spring, and federal education officials will not impose the performance requirements of the No Child Left behind law.
Meanwhile in Duluth, reporters staked out the federal courthouse, hoping to gather new information about Louis Jordain. Prosecutors are considering a conspiracy charge against the 16-year-old son of tribal chair Buck Jordain. However, federal authorities refuse to say what role the teen may have played in the shootings.
The Red Lake tragedy has drawn national attention. An editorial cartoon published in the Duluth News Tribune prompted an estimated 75 people to picket the newspaper. The publisher has issued an apology to readers.
Law enforcement officials in western Minnesota are investigating an incident where a young boy brought a BB pistol to school. Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist says officers were called to the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School in Glyndon on Wednesday because of a report of a student who might have a weapon.
Chris Dunshee says he has no idea how long it will take before kids in Red Lake will be comfortable in their school. Right now he's working to address some of the simpler questions students are asking.
"'We will have a plan in place for you. You will graduate. We will have prom for you this year.' So needs will be addressed for them," he said.
Dunshee says school officials will continue to meet and develop strategies to help the community recover.