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Petition to reinstate slavery circles around Park Hill South High School, students punished

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Posted at 10:24 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 16:17:17-04

RIVERSIDE, Mo. — A petition to reinstate slavery from a group of students at the Park Hill South High School angers fellow students, parents and school administrators.

According to Park Hill South High School Principal Kerrie Herren, the racial incident happened last Thursday afternoon, and he was notified by students about the comments.

"When you hear something like this, it takes you a step back," Herren said. "There was some racist statements that occurred, and this is not who we want to be at Park Hill South, and this is not tolerated and will never be tolerated in our building."

Herren told KSHB 41 News the students have been punished as they violated the school's policy. He wouldn't go into detail about what type of punishment, as it deals with student privacy.

It's an incident Herren wants to stop from happening in the future.

"How do we as a community come together and use this as a way to make us stronger and having some legitimate conversations about race," Herren said.

That's where Terri Deayon, the district's director of access, inclusion and family engagement, comes in.

"There is a social-emotional side to incidents such as this that are racially motivated, and it impacts us all differently depending upon our lived experiences, depending upon how we are wired, but there is impact," Deayon said.

Deayon adds listening to one another is a way to understand a way of life that is different from one's own.

"Encourage our administrators to provide safe spaces and opportunity for students to speak their truth, to fully, honesty and opening talk about lived experience and give space for that," Deayon said.

Hoping this changes minds and understanding that what someone writes or says matters.

"How do we just help students to be aware of the implications of our actions and our words," Deayon said.

The district will continue to have counselors for students to speak with and will hold a group listening session with students if they have concerns.

Here is the letter Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd sent parents:

Dear Park Hill School District family,

Many people in our community are hurting right now as a result of an incident that happened at a Park Hill South High School event at the end of last week, when a small group of students posted unacceptable and racist statements online.

Park Hill South Principal Dr. Kerrie Herren did an excellent job reaching out to families after this happened, and LEAD Innovation Studio Principal Dr. Ryan Stanley followed up with the Park Hill South students and families at his school.

I want to reach out to our whole community to support the actions taken by these principals and to underscore how we will respond to these situations.

We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment in the Park Hill School District and have very specific policies to respond when these things happen:

  • We have a Board of Education policy that specifically prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation. This policy says "students who violate this policy will be subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion."
  • We also have a Board policy on civility that prohibits "attacks regarding a person's race, gender, nationality, religion, disabling condition or any other personal characteristic."

I cannot share the specifics about any particular student's discipline, but I can tell you that we follow our Board policy when disciplining students.

It is important that we listen to the students, families and staff who are hurting, so we have been setting up meetings to give our people the opportunity to share how they feel. I appreciate the work of Director of Access, Inclusion and Family Engagement Dr. Terri Deayon to lead the restorative efforts we need to be doing to learn from this incident so that we can be better.

This is further evidence that we need to continue doing the work we started in 2015 to make our schools a welcoming, inclusive environment, where everyone feels safe. As our strategic plan (CSIP) says, one of our top goals is to "ensure success for all students, regardless of background."

Thank you for your support of our Park Hill schools as we work toward those goals.

Sincerely, Jeanette Cowherd, Superintendent Park Hill School District