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Racist incident at Park Hill school is latest in the KC area. Here are others we covered

·6 min read

This week, The Star reported an incident involving a racist petition calling to bring back slavery that circulated at Park Hill High School.

It’s one in several racist incidents at different schools across the Kansas City metro, involving students and teachers, in the last few years.

In one case, a swastika appeared at an area prep school — and months later, “KKK” was written on the side of a student’s desk. In another, a teacher in Lee’s Summit admitted to using the n-word twice. The school board later reinstated the teacher.

Here’s a list of some instances of racism in Kansas City area schools that made headlines in recent years:

Park Hill petition to bring back slavery

Parents in the Park Hill School District are demanding accountability for the student or students behind a racist petition last week that they say was a call to bring back slavery.

The school district has shared few specific details about the incident, which originated at Park Hill South 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.

The principal at Park Hill South High School expressed outrage.

“We are outraged, hurt and saddened that this occurred,” Principal Kerrie Herren said in a statement to the student body Friday. “This is not who we want to be at Park Hill South. Our differences make us stronger. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment.”

Last year, Herren asked members of the Park Hill South volleyball team to take off warm-up t-shirts that said “together we rise,” The Star’s editorial team reported. The shirts were a symbol of racial equity and inclusion. Herren later apologized.

Herren called the petition “unacceptable,” and added that “the impact of these sentiments are being felt heavily within our school.”

Swastika, ‘KKK’ appear at prep school months apart

Pembroke Hill School officials started an investigation in April to find out who wrote “KKK” on the side of a student desk — a couple of months after a swastika was found in a classroom on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The “KKK” written on the desk was the latest in a string of incidents that have angered and frustrated several parents, including many who are Jewish. Parents previously told The Star they have witnessed a pattern of anti-Semitic behavior at Pembroke in recent years, including swastikas drawn on a Jewish student’s locker and a bathroom wall.

On Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, officials at the high school discovered a swastika drawn on a desk, as well an offensive reference toward members of the school’s LGBTQ community. Officials said at the time that they were investigating the incident and would punish whoever was responsible. Officials said they hadn’t identified who was responsible for the swastika.

Lee’s Summit teacher says slur, isn’t fired

In July, The Lee’s Summit school board reinstated a teacher and coach Joe Oswald, going against the superintendent’s recommendation that he be terminated after using a racial slur.

Oswald, a tenured physical education teacher at Pleasant Lea Middle School, had admitted to using the n-word twice. But he said he only did so while filing a disciplinary report about a student who used the slur in the school cafeteria.

The school board voted 5-2 to reinstate him. The two Black members on the board, Megan Marshall and Rodrick Sparks, voted in favor of firing Oswald.

On May 6, Oswald and another teacher overheard a female student say a racial slur, he previously told the school board. While filling out a discipline slip, Oswald quoted what the student had said, including the slur, and then read it aloud. She asked him to repeat it, and he said it again. Another student in the room also overheard the exchange.

A district report, with details of the investigation into the incident, stated that the student “was in shock because the word was offensive and she thought he would just use the term ‘N-word.’”

Harrisonville teacher fired for racist comments

Harrisonville High School science teacher John Magoffin was fired in July by the school board after he was accused of making several inappropriate and racist comments. Magoffin was placed on administrative leave on April 20 after a student alleged that he had used the n-word.

Duane Martin, an attorney for the district, said Magoffin used the racist slur during a conversation on rap culture and skin color.

A complaint filed by a Black student in a different class claimed that Magoffin had “an odd obsession” with her hair and that he said he would never support the Black Lives Matter movement. He was also accused of saying females wear leggings to show off their butts and “birthing hips.”

A third complaint surfaced involving comments made during a physics class in which Magoffin referred to Martin Luther King Day as “Black privilege day.” In that complaint, a student said Magoffin also said racism does not exist in the U.S.

Olathe North High School baseball coach fired after racist slur

In May, the Olathe school board unanimously agreed to fire Olathe North High School’s head baseball coach Pete Flood after he allegedly used a racial slur toward a Black player.

The board agreed to immediately terminate Flood’s teaching contract and employment from all positions he holds in the district.

Tony Banks previously told The Star that last Thursday, his son, a senior and the only Black player on the team, was playing rap music through speakers during batting practice before a game against Olathe South.

Banks said Flood walked up to his son and told him, “We don’t play that N----- music over here. We only play country and rock music.”

Flood admitted that he did use the racial slur before a game but claimed it was not directed toward a student.

But the father of the student, who reported the incident, said Flood’s version is incorrect and demeans his son. Instead, he places his trust in the school district’s investigation.

Noose found in Platte County High School bathroom

A Platte County High School employee found a noose, made out of white shoestrings, hanging in a boys bathroom in December 2019, The Star reported.

It was the latest in a string of racist incidents in the school district, including a hate-filled three-page Google document that repeatedly used the n-word and was shared with roughly 200 students the month before.

The year before, nooses made out of paper were discovered stuck to the walls of the high school.

Catholic school girls posed with Swastika

St. Teresa’s Academy administrators disciplined students in 2017 after pictures shared with school staff showed them at a party with a swastika made with beer pong cups.

The students later apologized.

The Star’s Aarón Torres, Mará Rose Williams, Sarah Ritter, Katie Moore and Glenn Rice contributed to this report.

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