LIBERTY, Mo. -- Officials in a suburban Kansas City school district are investigating after a small group of students posted a petition online calling for the return of slavery.
The petition came to light last week after the students at Park Hill South High School posted it during a school-related activity, officials said.
Further details about the number of students involved, the specific language of the petition or what might have prompted it were not being released because it is a discipline issue, district spokeswoman Nicole Kirby said Wednesday.
Jeanette Cowherd, superintendent of the Park Hill School District, said in a letter to the community Wednesday that the district does not tolerate discrimination or harassment and has specific policies addressing any violations, which could result in a suspension or expulsion.
The district also has a policy on civility that prohibits attacks against people based on factors such as race, gender, religion, disability or other personal characteristics.
“I cannot share the specifics of any particular student's discipline but I can tell you that we follow our Board policy when disciplining students,” she wrote.
Kerrie Herren, principal of Park Hill South, said a student notified him of the petition last Thursday and school officials have been working since then to help students and staff who are upset by the incident.
“I think that a large portion of our population is hurt, mad, outraged and confused and want to use it as way to make Park Hill South better," Herren said.
The Park Hill district had a student population of 11,767 this school year, of which about 12.7% were Black. The district instituted an inclusion and equity council with teachers in 2015, which led to student focus groups and eventually a family advisory council on the issue.
Terri Deayon, the district's director of access, inclusion and family engagement, said district and school officials have met with student groups and staff at Park Hill South and at LEAD Innovation Studio, a separate school on the Park Hill South campus that offers a different educational approach to students.
"I wholeheartedly believe we are in a situation that we are going to confront, restore and heal," Deayon said. “We will be better and we will take this and use it as an opportunity to improve.”