A petition that called to resume slavery by students at Park Hill South High School has now been brought into a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the petition began as “friendly banter” between football teammates, a Black student and a biracial student, who is reportedly Black and Brazilian. Three non-Black teammates commented on the petition with remarks they say were intended to be a joke.

The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of the biracial and non-Black students, who said the school district and other officials violated First Amendment, due process and equal protection rights for disciplining them.

Outcry over the petition led to the expulsion of one student and 180-day suspensions for three others. Parents of the students, who remain anonymous, first filed the lawsuit.

According to the Kansas City Star, the students were en route to an away game. According to local NPR affiliate KCUR:

Loading the player...

During the ride, Plaintiff A, who is Black and Brazilian, typed a three-word “petition” onto the website Change.org, stating, “Start slavery again.” He showed the screen to his teammates, including Student X, and they all laughed about it and encouraged him to post it on social media, according to the lawsuit.

By the time the students returned to the high school after winning their game, 11 people had “liked” the petition and others had shared it. Plaintiff A was among the commenters on his own petition, saying that Student X “needs a job.” Plaintiff B, who is white, commented, “I love slavery.” Plaintiff C, who is also white, commented, “I hate Blacks.” Plaintiff D, who is white and Asian, commented, “I want a slave.”

The school district’s spokeswoman, Nicole Kirby, said, “As this lawsuit describes, we took prompt, decisive action to enforce our policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and uncivil behavior….We will be able to share further details when we respond to this lawsuit in court.”

A father who spoke to the publication on the condition of anonymity told The Star that the football team has long used racial slurs and offensive comments. “The N-word is rampant among the players. Adult supervision at Park Hill South has done nothing to address that or educate them on why that’s not appropriate.”

“The coach has really tried to do a good job and would reprimand players. But school officials really have done nothing to educate these 14-year-olds on why you don’t use racial slurs. Does anyone really believe someone wants to start slavery again? No. It was a sick joke. But they did not do it maliciously,” the father said.

The board didn’t take any action against the other students involved in the “friendly banter” after disciplining the four students, ninth graders ages 14 and 15.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages and order allowing the students to return to school.

TOPICS: