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Keary Saffold can still remember the way his second-grade teacher made him feel when he wrote “God” instead of “good” on a spelling test and she curtly pointed out his mistake.

“It made me feel two inches tall,” he said, adding it’s the sort of interaction that can trigger or fuel an inferiority complex in youth.

Reflecting on his elementary years in the Minneapolis Public Schools district, Saffold admits he could be “rambunctious” at times, feeling pressure to assert his masculinity while among his peers. But the reason he still thinks back to that particular moment in second grade is because it exemplifies the strained relationship he had with his teacher — the very teacher who approached his parents, suggesting they get him evaluated for an emotional or behavioral disorder.


The little yellow buses line up every morning outside Harrison Education Center in north Minneapolis, discharging dozens of teenagers to a high school no parents choose for their child. 

Classrooms are kept locked at all times. Fights and suspensions are common. No one has graduated in a couple of years.

The school is where Minneapolis sends special education students with the worst behavior problems, kids who typically failed everywhere else they went. Administrators say the high school is supposed to be a temporary stop for students to learn self-control before going back to a less restrictive setting.

But few ever leave. And nearly 90 percent of the students are black.