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Family of slain North High School Student calls for criminal investigation into principal

(BLCK Press photo/Chioma Uwagwu)

The Family of Deshaun Hill, Jr. is calling on the attorney general’s office to investigate North High Principal Mauri Friestleben for criminal negligence.

The family’s attorney, William Walker, says that the principal’s actions led to the death of Hill, because she released the children from school early on Feb. 9 despite calls from the district to not do so and without contacting parents.

“We wish [Maurie Friestleben] had been acting as a principal and not as an activist on this particular day,” Walker said, “because if you had assumed your role as principal teaching the kids in school, Deshaun Hill, Jr. would be alive today.”

Students held a walkout to Minneapolis City Hall Feb. 9 to protest the death of Amir Locke, who was fatally shot by police on Feb. 2. Friestleben let classes out early that day and joined the students who walked to City Hall, a decision that Walker says was directly responsible for Hill’s death.

The family was intending to file a lawsuit against Minneapolis Public Schools, but the school board voted to settle with the family for $500,000, the largest amount allowed by Minnesota statute.

Walker said that the area around the school was so dangerous that police officers would transport students into the building, and that allowing students out of the building early without notifying their family members created an unsafe environment for the students to be in.

Walker says that Friestleben’s actions fall under criminal negligence, and he and Hill’s family will write to Keith Ellison’s office to push for an investigation.

“We believe that those actions created an unreasonable risk,” Walker said, “and secondly you have to show that it was conscious that you'd consciously take a chance of causing death or great bodily harm, and we know that it had to be conscious because the school district told her [on two separate occasions] ‘do not release the kids because we cannot ensure any safety or safe the well-being of the children.”

Friestleben announced she was terminated by Minneapolis Public Schools last May for not obeying protocols in place for student protests, but MPS denied the claim, saying she had been put on leave. She returned later that year.

Walker noted that the school district’s lawyers “acted with respect, dignity and legal professionalism, but that it would not bring back the life of Deshaun Hill.”

The man who killed Hill has been charged with second-degree murder. Jury selection began on Tuesday following a two-month delay.

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