A group of eight students from the Parkway School District paid a visit to the district’s Board of Education meeting on April 10 to make comments in response to a recent video that featured racist verbiage and comments made by Parkway students during spring break. The Snapchat video reportedly contained derogatory comments about African Americans, including a student chanting “slavery, slavery, slavery!”
The district has a policy in place [policy item JBA.BP] that states the district is, “… committed to maintaining an educational environment that is free from discrimination and harassment in admission or access to, or treatment in, its programs, services, activities and facilities. In accordance with law, the district strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment against students on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by law.”
The video emerged following the district’s spring break, and although the comments were made by Parkway students, the comments were made off campus and not during school hours.
Three involved students from Parkway Central High were disciplined following the video’s emergence. Since then, the video has prompted hundreds of students to walk out of school on March 27 in addition to the eight students calling for further strides in addressing racism at the April 10 board meeting.
“Over the last few weeks, Parkway Central has experienced another racially motivated incident,” Central student Kamilah Gamble said on April 10. “The growing sentiment of hate and racism in America is not only affecting the people in power but also our students.”
Other students called for direct and specific changes within the district, including the implementation of social justice and racial sensitivity training for students and faculty. Curriculum changes were also posed as an option by students on April 10.
“We need more education for students on modern issues and movements, similar to the contemporary issues elective class, which focuses current political, economic and social issues including topics such as discrimination and immigration,” Central freshman Ayaan Umar said. “Given the current climate in our country and in our school, these topics are critical to American youth.”
Board President Jeff Todd read an official statement in which he condemned the video and mentioned a reexamination of district policies. Todd said Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty had met with student leaders on multiple occasions, and that there are plans to continue conversations with the district’s social justice leadership advisory council and other community forums. He also mentioned the review of current policy and discipline practices as well as an increased focus on teaching about different cultures and ethnicities.
“This recent behavior is not consistent with who we are as a community,” Todd said on April 10. “Students have sent a clear message that the actions in that video were wrong; that racism and hate speech will not be tolerated. The board of education, along with Central High principals, teachers and your fellow students, support your voice and stand with you to do what is right every day. We will continue to work together, learn from each other, and support one another as we seek to deliver our mission to all in our school community.”