CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Over a thousand students and staff walked out of Parkway Central High Schools in solidarity after racist graffiti was found in the boys bathroom.

The graffiti was found Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. On Thursday morning, Parkway Central students, staff and teachers walked out during class to stand in solidarity and asking the administration for change. 

A St. Louis County school is investigating after racist messages were written all over a bathroom’s walls. The graffiti was found inside a boys bathroom at Parkway Central High School Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 p.m.

"I'm sitting in that building, shaking in fear because I don't know what's going to happen to me because of my skin tone," one student said at the demonstration. "We need change in this building and we don't need it then, we need it now."

Brittanee Jackson is a senior at Parkway Central and said this isn't her first time seeing racially targeted slurs in her school. 

"I was shocked, but at the same time honestly I wasn't," Jackson said. "Freshman year there was a video with racial slurs being said. Sophomore year, there was a meme posted during school about what happened with the video. Junior year there was a video with a girl who had profanity written on her stomach and now this."

The video, taken from a student, shows slurs and hateful words written on the walls and stalls of a boys restroom. News 4 is choosing not to repeat any of the slurs because the words are so demeaning. 

"It was kind of like a culture shock to me because before I went to a predominantly Black school, and now coming here and dealing with this, yeah it's crazy," Arie McGuire, also a senior, said. 

Shortly after the discovery of the graffiti, Parkway Central Principal Tim McCarthy addressed it over a loud speaker.

"As your building principal, these actions which degrade individual’s human dignity have no place in school. They have no place at Central High and are antithetical to our core values of respect, integrity and caring," McCarthy said in part. 

McCarthy also sent a note home to parents and students. Part of that note is below: 

Regretfully, I am sending this email to share with you information regarding a serious incident at Central High this afternoon: racist hate speech was written on bathroom walls at school. This act is an affront to the core values of our community and a serious violation of our discipline code. Please know that we take this offense seriously and will work with district officials to investigate the incident and hold anyone involved accountable for their actions. 

Some students said administrators aren't doing enough to curb what they call constant racism.

"It's kind of embarrassing because you know, you have other schools looking at you like the racist school, like that's the school you'd never want to go to because stuff like that actually happens to the students that attend our school," Xaviana Payne said. 

Payne, also a senior at Central, says she's noticed a divide between white and Black students at the school. After Wednesday's incident, students are now sending emails to board members asking for an update to the district's discrimination policy. 

"Stuff like that needs to be talked about in class especially instead of just pushing it under the rug," Payne said. 

News 4 asked for an interview with the district's superintendent and Central's principal. We're told neither were available for an interview. After talking with students Wednesday afternoon, we've taken their concerns back to administrators and have requested another interview. 

Parkway Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty sent the following letter Thursday morning:

"Dear Parkway Students, Parents and Staff,

In recent years, I have regrettably had to contact you about racist speech from students, either in our schools or on social media. I have indicated there will be no tolerance for hate speech and students found responsible will receive severe disciplinary consequences and referral to law enforcement.

Some students and families have been surprised at the significant consequences that have resulted in terms of extreme and lengthy suspensions; legal prosecution from police; transfers to different schools; loss of privileges, activities, athletics and events; and restitution to those harmed. Let there be no surprise: racist statements and actions have a devastating impact on individuals and our community and will be met with substantial disciplinary and potentially legal consequences.

This week, despite our efforts to make our schools a place where each student feels they belong, are loved and are an important member of the community, racist slurs were written on bathroom walls at Central and North High Schools. Students and staff are hurt, angry and feeling outnumbered by those who seem willing to stand by and watch without taking action to stop it.

Racism is wrong. Racism, hate speech and racist behavior causes everlasting harm and degrades Parkway students and staff. Racism undermines our mission, commitments, tradition, reputation, character principles and the moral fabric and core values of our outstanding school district and community.

Personally, I am sickened by the behavior of the student(s) who thought and wrote these words. I know the harmful impact it has on all students and our diverse community. As someone who grew up in the 1960s, I sadly remember how the late Martin Luther King, Jr. felt when he said he was tired of confronting racism in America. Though my experiences are certainly different as a white man, I, too, am tired, disappointed and angry.

For years we have been working to help students understand the views, values and cultures of others. Our teachers are working to implement practices to meet the needs of students from all cultures and backgrounds. We continue to ensure our curriculum helps students understand multiple perspectives, represents all students and helps them act out of a strong sense of personal, social and civic responsibility. We have developed and promoted work around character education. Yet, despite these and many other efforts, we clearly have more work to do.  

The actions of a few will not deter us from our mission for all students to know they are safe and belong in our schools and community. Students must know racism and hate speech is wrong, hurtful and will result in severe disciplinary consequences and a criminal investigation when warranted.

We took immediate action yesterday to begin school and police department investigations related to these incidents. Parkway will continue to hold anyone responsible for participating in hate speech accountable for their actions. Our discipline policy outlines that any student behavior that harrasses, threatens or degrades others will not be tolerated under any circumstances. These acts are a significant violation of multiple codes of conduct outlined in our policies. Any act that degrades a race, culture, religion, gender, and/or orientation will be investigated by school and district officials and referred to our police departments for additional investigation. There will be no tolerance for those who choose to purposely degrade others.

In addition, vandalism of property is a crime and will be treated as such. Recently, across the country, schools have seen some students vandalize bathrooms as part of a so-called TikTok bathroom challenge. Students and parents should know that vandalism of any kind will also result in police investigation and criminal action.

Today, I’m asking for your help as it is impossible for us to do this work alone. Parents, we need your active participation in teaching our children the harmful consequences of their behavior. Please have conversations with your children concerning the significant impact of words, actions and behavior. There are consequences at school, at home and in their social relationships, especially when their words and actions are widely shared and documented forever online. 

I also ask that you take time to discuss with your children the topic of race and racism in our country and region. Nearly 40% of Parkway students are non-White. Parkway truly represents the beautiful diversity of the United States. While we cannot solve the larger social and cultural problems of the nation alone, we can make a difference every day in our own homes and communities. In our schools, we will continue to celebrate our diversity, our cultures and demonstrate a personal commitment to civility, compassion and love for one another.

Fortunately, Parkway families are amazing and understand that our diversity makes us stronger than ever as a community. We need your help as we demonstrate love, respect, care and common courtesy for all students, families and Parkway employees.

When a student’s behavior does not match our expectations, it is a teaching opportunity for both educators and parents to demonstrate how the actions of another student impacts not only their lives but the lives of others. 

As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure all our students know they are safe and belong at school. We should all work together and take accountability for our actions and our words. Thank you for your commitment to partnering with us and thank you for taking care of all our students."

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