Park Hill High School students face punishment for walkout

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A walkout organized by the students at Park Hill High School was a peaceful tribute to the 17 people who lost their lives in the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida one month ago.

Students gave speeches, read poems, and named each of the 17 victims as they tied 17 orange balloons to the flag pole representing those who lost their lives in the massacre.

From across the street, parents like Angela Resch watched proudly as her daughter participated in the walkout.

“I told my daughter to -- whatever goes on -- stand up like the rest of the country and walk out for the 17 individuals that were killed exactly one month ago,” Resch said.

Among the student body of nearly 2,000 students, barely 200 participated in the walkout. Those who did weren't afraid of the consequences of participating.

“He was told that he wasn’t allowed to leave the school by the teacher, and it wasn’t worth their time to go out,” said Stacy Bravard, who began getting text messages from her son after the walkout began. “And that the principal said it was OK to go, yet the teachers are telling them that if they go out the door they are getting truant.”

Bravard, like other Park Hill parents, are angered by the lack of communication by the district to the students and parents regarding the expectations of students during the walkout.

“Go figure that they would keep them from doing that. It is just wrong,” said Bravard. “To me, their rights were violated because they were not allowed to go out.”

Those who participated paid a price. When the students went back into the school after the walkout, the teachers were guarding the hallways and doors were locked so students could not immediately go back to class. They were considered truant and punished for participating.

Riley Peak said he was given the option to do a half hour detention after school Tuesday or sit through an administrative disciplinary meeting after spring break.

“I chose to do the disciplinary meeting because they have a lot of students that participated in that walkout,” said Peak. “I figured if they want to track me down to punish me for expressing my first amendment right, then they have the right to do so.”

The Superintendent and Principal of Park Hill High School remained silent about the controversy, instead relying on a statement sent by a district spokesperson.

The Park Hill High School students who protested today were very peaceful and respectful.

In keeping with our student-parent handbook, Park Hill High School students who were marked truant for walking out received an administrative conference if it was their first offense. The principal gave them the option to meet after school to have a quick group conference or to have an individual conference later. He also gave them the opportunity to provide a written explanation that they believed they did the right thing.

As a district, we will follow our handbook for any such walkout.

Numerous outspoken parents and students believe the district could have handled communication about expectations much better.

Students who walked out say they would do it again in a heartbeat, no mater what the consequences.