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(Source: Parkway Schools)

Last week, two separate incidents were reported within hours of each other in Parkway Central and Parkway North bathrooms involving sexually graphic and racially demeaning messages. The incidents, which appear unrelated, were reported to Parkway administration on Sept. 22. The district immediately began investigating the racial slurs, which led to a confession at Central High by an African-American underclassman a few days later. His motive is unclear.

What became clear in an email sent to Parkway families by Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty is that the student “will be met with substantial disciplinary and potentially legal consequences.” In a second email to the Parkway community on Sept. 28, Marty wrote, “The student responsible is not white, however, this does not diminish the hurt it caused or the negative impact it has had on our entire community.”

This latest situation comes four years after another major racially motivated incident at Central High in 2017, which also was perpetrated by a Black student.

In his initial email, Marty wrote, in part, “For years we have been working to help students understand the views, values and cultures of others. Our teachers are working to implement practices to meet the needs of students from all cultures and backgrounds. We continue to ensure our curriculum helps students understand multiple perspectives, represents all students and helps them act out of a strong sense of personal, social and civic responsibility. We have developed and promoted work around character education. Yet, despite these and many other efforts, we clearly have more work to do.”

On Sept. 23, about 1,000 students participated in a walk-out at Central High to take a stand against racism and make their voices heard. A group of Central area students and parents protested at the administrative building connected to the Central campus, demanding action and change.

Similarly, Parkway South High Principal Dr. Patrice Aitch reported in an email to parents that about 600 students participated with “the leaders of the walkout open(ing) the event and allow(ing) for any student to share their thoughts and feelings.”

“Students shared racist and negative experiences they’ve encountered both at school and in the community,” Aitch said. “They shared the harm endured from hate speech regarding race, religion, sexuality and genderism. A vehement desire for change in school and the community was made clear as they encouraged each other to not be bystanders, but to speak up when witnessing events such as these.”

The North High incident is still under investigation. Although district administrators revealed that they are zeroing in on the student believed to be responsible, as of press time, no confirmation had been made. Students at North High also organized a peaceful walkout for change.  

Marty acknowledged and lauded the students’ efforts.

“Their voice was a clear indication that more work is needed to ensure our school cultures and communities are safe for each student regardless of their race,” he wrote. “I want to tell the thousands of students who participated on behalf of themselves and their fellow classmates: I am proud of you for supporting one another and we heard you loud and clear.”