KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Park Hill School District is responding after some students circulated a petition calling for the return of slavery. Other students are also weighing in, saying all this has created an uncomfortable environment in the halls of Park Hill South High School.
Students with direct knowledge of the situation tell FOX4 the petition to bring back slavery was something peers shared online. Soon, there were leaked screenshots of petition comments, including things like “I hate blacks” and “I love slavery.”
Some students say they don’t think the school took the situation seriously from the outset. Park Hill South Senior Brie Holmes recalled her reaction.
“I thought it was fake. I thought it was like a sick joke and a rumor,” Holmes said. “And my teacher had said that she was also upset by it, but the kids were like, joking about it, and not taking it seriously.”
Her feeling amplified the awareness of her own racial identity.
“Well, my mom is Caucasian, and my dad is African-American. And then there’s me. You can’t see it. I look just a little tan, but I still look Caucasian. I’ve heard the ‘n-word’ quite a bit, and I’ve had to say, ‘That’s not okay,’” she said. “With this particular situation, and it’s sad to say, I’m not surprised that it happened at my school. There have been some funky things going on.”
District administration and Park Hill South’s principal said the petition troubles them and want to express that to the public.
“We listened to those that brought it forward to make sure we had the details and all that. And then our investigation started right away,” Principal Dr. Kerrie Herren said.
“They are experiencing some of the same confusing emotions and feelings and reactions as the adults are. We are all in that place as human beings,” said Terri Deayon, district director of access, inclusion and family engagement.
“I think we got a lot of hurt students. A lot of students who are hurt and mad and frustrated. They’re confused why this is happening in their community. I do not sense that they are taking it lightly whatsoever,” Herren said.
Holmes said she’s been reflecting about when she learned about slavery as a younger student in the district.
“And I remember we were talking about what they did to the slaves when they were in slavery, and I remember crying in class. And my teacher asked if I was okay and I was like, ‘If I was back then, that could have happened to me,'” she recalled.
The district says it’s not allowed to discuss discipline of students but did provide a portion of its handbook outlining that racially centered incidents of this type do carry punishments. That’s all they can say at this point.