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Family of Pillsbury Elementary student accuses school of covering up assault

Updated: Apr 17

Community advocates and the family of an 8-year-old girl who was allegedly shoved into lockers by a school teacher hold a press conference outside of Pillsbury Elementary School (Jasmine McBride/BLCK Press)

The family of 8-year-old Israel Burns has filed a police report and is demanding an investigation into Northeast Minneapolis’ Pillsbury Elementary, alleging a school employee mishandled the girl and that the principal then sought to cover up the incident.

"We want to make sure that an investigation is done because if they're trying to cover this one up, imagine what else they're trying to cover up as well,” said Nasiy Nasir X, a community advocate speaking on behalf of the family.

“The school needs a cleansing," he added.

According to the family, Burns was talking back to a teacher on Tuesday morning when he grabbed her by the collar and pushed her into the lockers. The teacher has been identified as special ed teacher Tyler Martin. Israel’s sister Trinity was a witness.

Late last week the family set up an in-person meeting with the school’s principal, Jessica Skowronek, to request the school’s security camera footage. The meeting was recorded and posted publicly by the family and Nasir X. In the video, Skowronek is seen stating that she had not yet located any footage of the incident and that, even if there were, she could not release it for the sake of other students’ privacy.

When asked what her belief was on the matter or if she spoke to the teacher, Skowronek replied that she had conducted her investigation and couldn’t disclose a private conversation with an employee.

But since then the family says Principal Skowronek invited them back to view security footage, where they witnessed the teacher push Israel into the lockers not once, they say, but twice. They say Skowronek also informed them that the teacher has been put on leave.

"We are here to demand that this teacher is fired because right now, they got the teacher on leave. But we're demanding that he is fired, he is charged, and he's arrested,” said Nasir X. “Because if this was a Black teacher that did this to a little white child, that Black teacher would have been fired immediately – expeditiously – and removed off the premises of school grounds."

Skowronek did not respond to a request from BLCK Press for comment, but Minneapolis Public Schools’ media relations coordinator issued the following statement.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) takes any allegations made by our students very seriously. Due to data privacy laws, we cannot share any further information.

The family is also asking for the principal to be held accountable, stating that she has given conflicting responses over the past week that misrepresented the truth. Israel’s mother Emma Burns said she is pulling both her daughters from Pillsbury Elementary.

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