Four ninth-grade students in Kansas City are suing the school district, the principal and other individuals involved in disciplining them over a “petition to bring back slavery,” multiple sources reported.
A student — half black and half Brazilian — made a three-word petition on Change.org which said “start slavery again,” the lawsuit explained, according to KCUR, a local NPR affiliate. The student reportedly showed his screen to his football teammates on the way to a game, and the students laughed and encouraged him to share it on social media.
The student who made the petition commented on a social media post of the petition that a black student, referred to as Student X in the lawsuit, “needs a job.” The student who made this comment was expelled. Three other students who commented on the social media post, including one half-Asian, half-white student, and two white students were suspended for 180 days. The offending comments were “I love slavery,” “I hate blacks” and “I want a slave,” KCUR reported.
The lawsuit alleged that school officials violated students’ First Amendment, rights to due process and rights to equal protection, according to the Associated Press. The disciplined students are seeking actual and punitive damages, to be reinstated in school and to have the incident removed from their records, AP reported.
The lawsuit argues that the students involved in the petition and social media post viewed the events as a joke, according to KCUR, and it says that Student X, who received no punishment, was involved in creating the joke petition.
“Fourteen-year-olds sometimes unwisely shoot their mouths off, instantly regretting it but causing no harm, no disruption,” said Arthur Benson, a civil rights attorney defending the students who also filed a 1977 lawsuit challenging racial segregation of Kansas City Public Schools, according to KCUR.
“But here it was adults who unwisely over-reacted, causing the disruptions and they are now trying to strip these boys of their entire ninth grades.”
The school district had only mixed success with integration, making it difficult for students to navigate “peer culture that valued racialized bantering and the adult expectations of a school code that prohibited most forms of racial or ethnic descriptions and banter as punishable offenses,” Benson argued, according to KCUR.
Park Hill School District and Park Hill South High School did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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