Kansas school slammed for suspending Black teen who was victim of racist attack, students stage walkout

Kansas school slammed for suspending Black teen who was victim of racist attack, students stage walkout
Shawnee Mission East High School accused of mishandling a racially motivated crime that happened on school grounds (Shawnee Mission East High School)

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, KANSAS: Jason Peres, the principal of Shawnee Mission East High School has come under intense scrutiny after a Black female student was suspended for five days following a racially-driven physical altercation with a White male student on November 27.

The violent incident that happened in one of the hallways of the high school was caught on video, where both the students, engaged in a fistfight after an argument ensued after two other caucasian girls called the Black student a “slave.”

The Kansas City Star subsequently revealed that on the same day of the fight between the two sophomores, there was a mass walkout at the school, with students reportedly incensed that the Black female student was punished due to her involvement in getting beat up.

According to the publication, demonstrators are calling for more severe punishments for using racial slurs inside school premises.

What did the video footage of the fight reveal?

The video, which was initially released by The Kansas City Defender, shows a Black female student conversing with two White female students, one of whom she alleges called her a “slave.”

The two girls withdraw, as the Black student summons them to continue the argument.

At that point, a White male student who was not participating in the original conversation can be heard yelling, “Man shut the f**k up!”

“Who said that?!” exclaims the Black girl down the hall.

The caucasian male student advances toward the girl, hurls his backpack to the ground, and physically assaults the Black student by shoving her.

The white male student could be seen attacking the black female student in one of the hallways of Shawnee Mission East in a racially motivated hate crime on Monday. (The Kansas City Defender)
The White male student could be seen attacking the Black female student in one of the hallways of Shawnee Mission East in a racially motivated hate crime (The Kansas City Defender)

Despite being at a physical disadvantage, the Black student fights back against the onslaught.

“He said n****r! He said n****r!” the person filming the brawl could be heard saying repeatedly in the video.

After a violent altercation between two students, a teacher intervened and separated them after manhandling the male student.

Eyewitnesses reported that the White male student initiated the attack, and the female student was left with a broken nose and was subsequently hospitalized.

What was the aftermath of the racially motivated hate crime?

Shawnee Mission East High School did not directly address the hate crime that occurred within the school premises, nor did they openly denounce it.

This is an excerpt from an email that the school had sent out to the parents, “As a school and a community, we know that in order for students to learn, they must first feel safe and supported. Shawnee Mission East teachers, administrators, and staff will continue to do our absolute best to help every student who enters our school feel safe and supported so they can be at their very best…the words we use matter. Racially charged language, insults, and slurs will not be tolerated in our school…”

At 11 am, the same day, an overwhelming number of students walked out of class and marched outside Shawnee Mission East High, shouting "We want change," "Have our backs," and "How many times?"

Several of the high school students claimed it was just the latest in an ongoing pattern of racist incidents that went unpunished by school officials.

"We demand action!" the signs read. "Protect students of color," "We don't feel safe," and "Take action now" were among the demands made by the protesting high schoolers.

They urged school administrators to take stronger measures to combat racism and to impose harsher punishments for discrimination and hate speech.

A school district spokesperson told The Kansas City Star that their office takes “incidents of racism and physical violence very seriously. We do have a code of conduct in place, and we follow our policies and procedures.”

The White student was also simultaneously suspended for attacking the Black student. 

The Kansas City Defender cites other instances at the school, including one in which the principal, Jason Peres branded Black students “intimidating” and said that they looked like they might “jump someone.”

Shawnee East Mission has about 18 percent minority enrollment in total, with 82 percent White students and 1.6 percent Black students, with a little more than 5 percent identifying as mixed race, according to US News & World Report.

In terms of performance on state-mandated tests, it is recognized as the second-best high school in all of Kansas.

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