ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The Hazelwood School District has lifted the suspensions handed out to students who protested earlier this week.

A dozen seniors who faced the prospect of not being allowed to walk during Saturday’s graduation may return for rehearsal Friday.

Hazelwood West Principal Dennis Newell made the announcement on their website and was greeted with great joy by parents like Kayrisa Ezeufo – who’s daughter Victoria was among those facing suspension. Ezeufo feels that it was unfortunate that students had to go through this.

“I feel like they realized they made a mistake. My stance is still the same with the board,” Ezeufo says. “I feel that what they did in the first place, taking this harsh of a punishment, was not right.”

All students who missed exams while suspected will be allowed to make those up.

In a letter posted online, Newell said the decision to overturn the suspensions and graduation ban was based in part on new information that some district employees encouraged and may have manipulated students into walking out in support of teachers.

The district released the following statement:

“Hazelwood West High School Principal Dennis Newell and other administrators honored students and parents’ requests for several meetings throughout the day on Thursday. During these meetings, new information was provided to administrators that some employees of the District encouraged and may have manipulated students into the walkout, which resulted in disruption and created safety concerns.

While this matter with employees is being investigated, Mr. Newell has made the decision to rescind the consequences for students. Therefore, underclassmen will be allowed to return to school tomorrow and resume regular activities. In addition, the 12 Hazelwood West seniors who were suspended earlier this week may return on Friday for rehearsal in preparation for their graduation. All students missing exams during their suspension will be permitted to make up the exams.

Even as these consequences were being considered, at no time were students’ college or athletic scholarships in jeopardy, such as A+ Scholarships. Comparisons to this walkout have been made to other walkouts in previous years and under different circumstances. Those walkouts were in fact, organized, authorized, and supervised by the District.

Unfortunately, there are several inaccuracies and false assumptions being reported. First, the walkout staged Monday afternoon was not peaceful. Students in the hallways and outside of the school walked, ran, and shouted chants using vulgarities and profanities. Approximately 200 students left their classrooms without permission. This was despite a robo-call made to all high school students’ homes on Sunday warning that any student leaving or cutting class would be subject to disciplinary action, in accordance with the District’s code of conduct. When students were directed to return to the building, the majority of students failed to do so. While some of the students were shouting through the hallways and outside the building, they disrupted the academic process of approximately 1,700 students who were taking final exams and/or properly participating in classroom learning activities. Students were not properly supervised while outside of the building, causing a liability to both the students and the District.

The disciplinary consequences are consistent with the schools disciplinary code of conduct. Students would not have been disciplined for peacefully protesting at a time, place, and manner that would not have disrupted the learning environment.

The Hazelwood School District respects students’ voices and the exercise of their First Amendment rights, but we do not condone disruptive behavior or the violation of District policies. We are proud of our students in the Hazelwood School District, most of whom rise to, or exceed expectations every day. We thank our students, parents and community members for their patience as we work through this very difficult situation”

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