Hazelwood seniors punished for walk-out protest regarding teachers

HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) – Hundreds of students from Hazelwood West have been suspended after walking out of the classroom in support of their teachers.

The suspension means that seniors won’t be able to walk in graduation Saturday. A school board meeting Tuesday was packed with people upset about the district’s punishment.

All board members except for Mark Behlmann refused to talk about the suspension because it wasn’t on the agenda. During the meeting, Behlmann received a standing ovation from the crowd.

On Monday, roughly 200 Hazelwood West students walked out of the classroom in a peaceful protest against the school boards unwillingness to negotiate teacher’s contracts.

Students said at that time they were under the impression their punishment would be a warning and a call home.

Then on Tuesday students said they were called into the school office and informed that they would receive an out of school suspension for five days.

Kyra Pearson is the senior class president and Tuesday morning the principal told her she won’t get to walk in graduation this Saturday.

“I was sad but not for the reasons he believed me to be,” Pearson said. “He told me I should have thought more about what I did but I don’t regret doing it although it is sad that I don’t get to walk with my fellow classmates.”

Behlmann said this punishment just doesn’t fit the crime.

“This is not a thing we want to be teaching our kids, this is wrong of an education facility to be telling our kids that speaking our mind is not a good thing,” he said.

In a written statement, the school district stated that a voice message was sent reminding parents of the consequences students can face from violating district police.

Tony Jeffery, the father of a sophomore, got that message.

“I didn’t think much of it,” Jeffery said. “It sounded like more a message of it is the end of the school year we want to be sure to keep things calm, nothing more than that.”

Jeffery’s daughter was suspended for participating in the walkout. He said a lot of the students suspended are honor roll kids who are really trying to learn from the teachers they are supporting, and he himself is learning a lot about the school board.

“The message that I am getting from here is your narrative has to fit our narrative and if it doesn’t fit our narrative then we are going to drop the hammer on you.”

Students said there is nothing in the handbook that states a walkout is punishable with a five-day suspension. They said fighting in school is a three-day suspension and wonder why this would be more.

Parents at the meeting said they are going to file a lawsuit against the school Wednesday.