‘Action needs to be taken’: Park Hill school board hears from public on racist petition

·2 min read

Less than a week after a racist petition calling for a return of slavery was circulated online by students at Park Hill South High School, members of the public spoke out about the incident at a school board meeting.

The comments came during the Park Hill Board of Education’s regularly scheduled Thursday night meeting. The meeting was recorded on video and posted online.

“It’s a bigger issue than just the school district, there’s some home training that didn’t happen as well,” said one man, who is Black. “This racism incident has happened and no one has seen anything being done. So, I’ve heard all of the nice kind words and I guess they’re OK — they are what they are. But they’re meaningless and hollow and insincere if we don’t see action. Action needs to be taken and needs to be taken immediately.”

The Park Hill School District has shared few specifics about the incident, which originated at the high school last week. Nicole Kirby, a district spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the matter is considered a “discipline incident” and therefore the amount of information the district may share is limited, including the number of students involved or the exact details of what transpired.

At Thursday’s meeting, a white woman who said she’s a Park Hill South graduate, is married to a Black man and has three children also spoke about the incident.

“It’s my recommendation that every student involved in this incident serves one hour of community service per signature on that petition,” said . “And as we know, that would be more than 100 hours of community service, and the community service should directly benefit the people that they were targeting.”

Park Hill South High School Principal Kerrie Herren said the school is experiencing racism in the same way the wider community is grappling with it.

In the past few days, Herren has had several discussion with parents, students and staff about how the school handles racism.

“I think that (Park Hill South) is a microcosm of the bigger community and world,” Herren said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “And so just like other places are experiencing that, we experience it. But that’s why were are working on it, that’s why we did our listening tours and that’s why we’re committed to our inclusion, equity and diversity work that we’re doing.”

Last year, the Park Hill South High School volleyball team had stepped onto the court before a September game wearing T-shirts that said, “Together we rise” with three fists of different races raised in the air. Herren demanded the team take off the shirts, The Star’s editorial board reported. He later apologized.

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