Administrators in a Kansas City area school district were furious after a racist petition was circulated in a local high school calling for the reinstatement of slavery.
It is unclear how many students were involved and district officials have not offered details as to the precise language of the petition, but parents of kids who attend Park Hill South just northwest of Kansas City, Missouri were outraged.
The petition was posted online by students at a nearby high school in the same district – LEAD Innovation Studio.
A 15-year-old black student at LEAD Innovation heard an announcement over the public address system and became ‘really upset,’ her adoptive mother, Julie Stutterheim, said.
‘She said, “You know, you’re white, Mom. So you don’t really know what this is like.”
‘And I said, “Yeah, you’re right”,’ Stutterheim told The Kansas City Star.
Students at Park Hill South High School just outside of Kansas City, Missouri circulated a petition calling for the reinstatement of slavery, according to district officials
‘And she just wanted to know that … something was being done.’
Stutterheim said that she attended a meeting on Monday at LEAD Innovation, where the principal, Ryan Staley, told parents it was his understanding that the petition called for reinstating slavery.
Park Hill High School has a student body that is 14.4 percent black and 63 percent white. As of last year, the school’s student body numbered 1,906 pupils.
As of 2019, the population of the school district stood at 71,541 people. Its K-12 student enrollment stood at 11,617.
Of those, more than 67 percent are white while 12.3 percent are African-American.
Hispanics make up slightly more than 1 in 10 students, according to district data. Just 3.5 percent of students are Asian while 5.5 percent are multi-racial.
Nicole Kirby, a spokesperson for Park Hill School District, told The Kansas City Star that the issue is considered a ‘discipline incident’ which is why officials were not at liberty to share more details.
‘We can’t talk about specifics,’ Kirby said.
‘But we wanted to make sure that we responded and let people know that we don’t tolerate discrimination or harassment.’
The school principal, Kerrie Herren, told students on Friday that the racist statements included in the petition were ‘unacceptable.’
He said ‘the impact of these statements are being felt heavily within our school.’
‘We are outraged, hurt and saddened that this occurred,’ Herren said in a statement to students.
‘This is not who we want to be at Park Hill South. Our differences make us stronger.
‘We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment.’
Kirby said that the district is following its guidelines in terms of which punishments to mete out for cases of racial harassment.
She said that district administrators have 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.
‘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.’
Administrators are planning to stage ‘listening tours’ through the district schools so that students and faculty alike can ‘heal from this’ and become ‘better in the end.’
‘It is a very unfortunate situation, but we want to use this to become better, to become more inclusive, to become a more welcoming environment for our families and our students to all experience a true and genuine sense of belonging,’ said Terri Daeyon, who heads the district’s access, inclusion, and family engagement department.
‘We cannot address things without knowing that they’re there.
‘And so sometimes unfortunately it takes situations like this where we have opportunities for growth and opportunities to become better.’