KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In response to a lawsuit filed by the parents of students who created a "Start Slavery Again" petition at Park Hill South High School, the Park Hill School District requested that the court deny a motion that would allow the students to return to school.
"The students of Park Hill South have a compelling public interest in avoiding the disruption that would ensue if Plaintiffs abruptly and without warning resumed attending school there," the district wrote in it's filing Monday.
Outcry over the petition lead to the expulsion of one student and 180-day suspensions for three others. The four students who were disciplined for the petition sued the school district last week saying that the petition was not racial harassment as portrayed in public.
Instead, they assert, the widely reported petition — which The Star also reported — began as "friendly banter" between a biracial student and a Black student on the football team while en route to an away game, according to the federal lawsuit filed last week on behalf of the four students.
The day after the petition was created, a teacher sent an email to Park Hill South Principal Kerrie Herren, saying that one of her classes "was in uproar about the situation," according to the school district's court filing.
"I have been fighting fires all day," the email read. "I have several girls crying and scared for their lives. I'm just not sure what's going on besides what students have told me. I could use some help or update on this situation. I have been doing a lot of counseling today and trying to give support but I am concerned about the girls that are scared or crying. Please let me know."
The lawsuit filed last week by the parents of the four students contends that the students' First Amendment rights, and 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, were violated.
The lawsuit asked that the court grant a temporary or preliminary injunction to allow the four students to return to school.
One of the students disciplined for the petition was later one of two students arrested after they discussed "shooting up" the school.
The preliminary injunction, the district argued, would interfere with its ability to discipline the student, identified as Plaintiff B, who threatened the school shooting, according to court documents.
"In the meantime, Plaintiff B would be walking the halls of the very school he talked about shooting up just a few weeks earlier, something that is certainly not in the public interest," the filing read.
Herren estimated that he and the school's assistant principals spent over 310 hours dealing with the fallout of the petition.
"And yet, Plaintiffs brazenly content that the disruption was all the District's fault, deflecting any responsibility for the consequences of their actions and the realities of social media," the filing said.
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