Hazelwood School District rescinds punishment for students who w - KMOV.com

Hazelwood School District rescinds punishment for students who walked out

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Students walk out of Hazelwood West High School Monday. Credit: KMOV Students walk out of Hazelwood West High School Monday. Credit: KMOV

The Hazelwood School District has rescinded punishments for students who walked out in protest Monday.

"We're really ecstatic," said sophomore Ishmaiah Moore.

Around 200 Hazelwood West High School students walked out in support of teachers who were involved with contract negotiations with the district. Some students were suspended while others were told they could’t participate in the graduation ceremony.

Administrators are now saying that the students may have been “manipulated” into walking out. 

"That sits terribly with me," said Diane Livingston of the teachers union.

"There has been no encouraging."

Parents and students also expressed concern about to handle future protests over teacher cuts and other issues.

"Students have so many different topics, we don't feel they're giving us a platform to voice it to them," said Moore.

The district released the following statement about the situation:

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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