Students punished for walking out of class in Hazelwood School D - KMOV.com

Students punished for walking out of class in Hazelwood School District

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This letter was sent to Hazelwood West Senior Class President Kyra Pearson the weekend before the walkout. Credit: KMOV This letter was sent to Hazelwood West Senior Class President Kyra Pearson the weekend before the walkout. Credit: KMOV
Students walk out of Hazelwood West High School Monday. Credit: KMOV Students walk out of Hazelwood West High School Monday. Credit: KMOV
NORTH ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -

Dozens of students are facing suspension and are now forbidden from attending graduation after they attended a walkout Monday afternoon in support of teachers.

More than 100 students walked out of classes at Hazelwood West High School to support contract negotiations for their teachers. 

"We have some of our greatest teachers leaving the district because they can't take it," said Kyra Pearson, senior class president at Hazelwood West. 

Pearson attended the walkout and is now suspended for five days and can no longer attend graduation where she was supposed to give a speech. 

"It is sad that I can't speak and I will genuinely miss not being able to walk down that aisle with the rest of my class but I think this is more important and I'm glad that I did it," she said. 

In a letter to her parents, the school district cited a violation of Policy JG: Dangerous Behavior. 

According to the student handbook, that policy is defined as "behaving in such a way that could reasonably cause injury to a student, teacher or another staff member (e.g., running through the halls, horse playing, wrestling, inappropriate use of equipment or materials, etc.). 

Videos and photos from Monday's protest appear peaceful. In the past few years, students have protested and not faced similar punishments. But a voicemail sent to parents over the weekend specifically pointed out consequences like attendance at graduation, A Plus status, and grades. But it did not mention five-day suspensions. 

The district issued a statement that reads in part, "While the Hazelwood School District respects students’ voices and their First Amendment rights, we do not condone the disruptive behavior and the violation of Board policies, such as cutting class. Disruption of instructional time will not be allowed regardless of the reason. Students were disciplined according to the Student-Parent Handbook and Behavior Guide."

Parents and students tried to express their frustration to the school board Tuesday night but they were not allowed to talk on the issue because it wasn't on the agenda and the board members would not bend the rules to hear the crowd's concerns. 

Board policy does allow students to appeal their punishment but with graduation this coming Saturday, students worry there isn't enough time. But they say they would do the walk out all over again. 

"I would 100 percent do the walk out again," said Pearson. 

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