The Newberg, Ore., school district isn’t the only one with racist students showing out on the first days of school. Apparently, the school district in Park Hill, Mo., is also catching heat after students circulated a petition to bring back slavery on social media last week.
According to the Kansas City Star, the petition originated at Park Hill South High School.
Nicole Kirby, the Park Hill School District spokeswoman, said in a statement on Tuesday that the situation is considered a “discipline incident” and the district will not be sharing specific details, including how many students were involved.
Here’s more on the district’s response from Kansas City Star:
Kirby said there are board policies in place with defined consequences for harassment, including racial harassment, and the district is following those rules. In the days since the incident came to light, Kirby said Park Hill has been doing “a lot of listening” with parents and students.
“We’ve set up some opportunities for students and even parents to be able to share their feelings about this and to try to provide some support to them, Kirby said, adding: “This is very much evidence that we have work to do. Because we have a commitment to creating an inclusive, welcoming environment where everyone feels like they belong.”
Terri Deayon, director of access, inclusion and family engagement for the Park Hill district, said listening tours are being made through the schools intended to assist students impacted. She said the important move forward is to derive from those conversations ways to “heal from this” and become “better in the end.”
Have you ever noticed that after something racist happens, white people always want to hold space for us (Black people) to talk about our feelings? These meetings aren’t helpful without transparency, action and accountability. They’re often spaces where Black people pour out emotionally in front of an audience that will never truly understand how frustrating it is to be caught in the never-ending loop of racist events and talking about it. White people can move on with life as usual, and we’re left with teaching our children that it will just happen again.
But I digress.
The school’s principal, Kerrie Herren, also issued a statement to the students on Friday. “We are outraged, hurt and saddened that this occurred,” Herren said, according to Kansas City Star. “This is not who we want to be at Park Hill South. Our differences make us stronger. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment.”
On Monday, LEAD Innovation Studio principal Ryan Staley met with about a dozen parents to address the situation that the school so vaguely described. Kansas City Star reports that when asked if there was a petition to reinstitute slavery Staley said that was his “understanding.” In an email on Friday, Staley said the incident involved “unacceptable and racist statements that some students posted online during a school-related activity” and that LEAD Innovation Studio was offering resources for students including counseling on Tuesday.
Park Hill South High School has yet to issue any public statements. A message from the superintendent Jeanette Cowherd was posted on its website addressing the George Floyd protests and promising that staff will do more to address racism in the district. “This means building on our efforts over the last five years to create culturally responsive classrooms that are inclusive, safe spaces for each student to bring their whole self,” Cowherd wrote.
According to the school district’s 2020-2021 demographic profile, Black students make up 12.7 percent of the students enrolled throughout the district.