HAZELWOOD, Mo. (KMOX) – Controversy continues to swirl throughout the Hazelwood School District following a tumultuous school board meeting Tuesday night.
Suspended students, their parents and others were invited to the Ward Chapel AME Church on Old Halls Ferry to speak out.
Dozens of students turned out for what turned into a rally hosted by Metropolitan Congregations United, many of them wearing black armbands as a silent protest against what they see as the school district trampling on their 1st Amendment rights and then punishing them for it.
“Since we were going against the board, which is the head (of the district), they didn’t like that we were going against the board,” opined senior Richard Spivey, who didn’t take part in the controversial student walkout but said he would have if he hadn’t been taking a final. “Any other time we protest and go against something else, they don’t mind. No one gets suspended, you just go back to class and call it a day.”
Senior Jonathan Rooney did take part in the walkout and now faces the prospect of missing out on walking up to accept his diploma with his fellow classmates.
Does he regret his participation in Monday’s student action?
“In some ways, I do,” he admitted. “I regret that I can’t walk at graduation. It hurts, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with, but it’s not right what (the administration) is doing.”
Angry parents also got a chance to speak out, including one who complained about a lack of communication from district leaders:
“I’m appalled that my child, my 16-year-old child, has to come home and talk to me about something that’s going on with their teacher,” Tony Jeffery said.
The ACLU’s Jeffrey Mittman said they’re ready to go to bat for students who feel their free speech rights were wrongly punished.
More than 100 students walked out of class Monday to support their union teachers. Many were suspended, and those who are seniors won’t get to walk during this weekend’s graduation ceremony.
Church officials said if seniors aren’t allowed to take part in Saturday’s ceremony, they’ll host their own ceremony for banned students.