At the Park Hill School District in Kansas, Missouri, the community is shocked and outraged by a petition circulated by students of Park Hill South High School. The called for the return of slavery for Black people.
FOX4 was told by students with first hand knowledge the petition circulated online.
Leaked comments on the petition read:
"I hate Blacks."
"I love slavery."
Park Hill South Senior Brie Holmes said:
"I thought it was fake. I thought it was like a sick joke and a rumor."
"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."
Students believe the school hadn't taken the situation seriously when they first heard about the petition.
Holmes' mother is Caucasian and her father is Black.
In the past, she's had to speak up about racist remarks from students.
"I've heard the 'n-word' quite a bit, and I've had to say, 'That's not okay.'"
"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."
For Holmes, this has brought up reflections of when she first learned about slavery.
"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 [alive] back then, that could have happened to me.'"
Spokeswoman Nicole Kirby said they cannot share details of what was said in the petition or any of the students involved because it is a discipline issue.
Jeanette Cowherd, superintendent of the Park Hill School District, wrote a statement on Wednesday. It said the district does not tolerate discrimination or harassment.
Any violations could end in suspension or expulsion.
They won't share the specifics of any disciplinary actions but they will be following the board's policy for anything against the policy on civility. It prohibits attacks against people based on factors such as race, gender, religion, disability or other personal characteristics.
Principal Dr. Kerrie Herren said:
"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."
"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."
Terri Deayon, district director of access, inclusion and family engagement, 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."
LEAD Innovation Studio, a specialized high school on campus, sent an email out to parents about the incident.
LEAD Innovation Studio principal Ryan Stanley wrote:
"[The incident involved] unacceptable and racist statements that some students posted online during a school-related activity."
The school was not forthright with what exactly had transpired, leaving parents questioning the severity of the racist actions.
The news reached social media as details continues to unfold around the racist petition.
In the Park Hill district, 12.7% of the 11,767 student population were Black this past school year.
Since 2015, the district has implemented an inclusion and equity council with teachers, several student focus groups and a family advisory council.
Deayon has spoken with students at two seperate campus' about what transpired and how they will move forward.
"I wholeheartedly believe we are in a situation that we are going to confront, restore and heal."
"We will be better and we will take this and use it as an opportunity to improve."
Kirby toldThe Kansas Star:
"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."
"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."
Deayon also told The Kansas Star the school needs to do better when it comes to inclusion and this is apart of that process.
In order to do better, they have to know better.
"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."
NPR in Kansas City reported parents are critical of the response from the Park Hill district.
Schylon Kubic, the parent of a Park Hill South student, said:
"I'm African American, my child is African American."
"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."
Herren said they are actively listening and engaging in conversations about race within the school community, but parents aren't exactly sure where and when those conversations are happening.
"To my knowledge, there have been no meetings."
"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's son is autistic and she worries about what he has experienced at the intersections of neurodiversity and Blackness.
"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."
No reports shared what disciplinary actions will be taken or how many students were involved.