After Racist Incident At Park Hill South High School, A Black Parent Calls For More Transparency
Parents criticized the school's response after a group of students allegedly circulated a petition to bring back slavery. The school won't give more specifics about the incident or any disciplinary actions taken.
High schoolers at Park Hill South in Kansas City allegedly circulated a racist petition last week that called to bring slavery back.
On Friday, the school’s principal, Kerrie Herren, informed parents via email that a racist incident had occurred, but did not go into detail. Herren said the incident was brought to the administration’s attention by students.
“We found out today about some unacceptable and racist statements that some students posted online during a school-related activity,” Herren said in the email. “We are outraged, hurt and saddened this occurred in our community. This is not who we want to be at Park Hill South. Our differences make us stronger, and we will not tolerate discrimination or harassment.”
Schylon Kubic, the parent of a Park Hill South student, says that when she first read the email, she shared it with her husband and wondered, “Oh boy, what is it this time?”
Park Hill South found itself in headlines last year for another incident, when Herren charged onto the volleyball court before a game and told the team to take off “Together We Rise” shirts that players were wearing in support of racial equity.
“I’m African American, my child is African American,” Kubic says. “A petition to bring back slavery is not only hurtful, but it is, you know, a direct affront to our community, to our race, and that’s something that I think the school district should have been very forthright with exactly what we were talking about.”
Park Hill South administrators would not confirm to KCUR details about last week's incident or what disciplinary measures had been taken, citing board policy.
“Because there’s kids involved, we got to be real cautious about specific situations and policy would prevent us from sharing a lot,” Herren told KCUR.
On Monday, Park Hill South held a lunch with administrators for students who had been impacted by the incident.
“We have spent the past few days fully immersed in active listening,” says Terri Deayon, director of access, inclusion, and family engagement at the Park Hill School District. “I feel like that is a critical piece of being able to get an accurate pulse on where all of our stakeholders, our students, our staff, and ultimately community as well.”
Herron says the school has been working on diversity and inclusion initiatives since 2015.
“We've done a lot of work in the past. What this incident shows us is that it further commits us to the work that we've already said we're there [sic],” says Harren. “It gives us an opportunity to really dive in and turn this into an opportunity where we can legitimately talk about race and inclusion and equity within our school.”
Despite those efforts, Kubic says she has not heard about any opportunity for Park Hill South parents to voice their concerns.
“To my knowledge, there have been no meetings,” Kubic says. “The district keeps talking about, ‘We're setting up meetings to give our people the opportunity to share how they feel,’ and yet no one has heard anything about these meetings. Are they happening in a vacuum? Are they available for all parents to be involved? Because if they are, I'd certainly like to be included.”
Kubic adds that her son is on the autism spectrum, and that she now worries more about what he experiences at school.
“From a safety concern, I’m definitely on high alert now, because I don't think that he's even aware of what potentially is going on around him all the time,” Kubic says.