On Thursday morning, more than 1,000 people, including students, staff, and teachers, participated in a walkout protest at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri, after racist slurs and hate speech were found written all over the walls, stalls, mirrors, and floor of a boy’s bathroom in the school. An unidentified student found the hate speech on Wednesday afternoon, but many at the school say this is far from the first time racism has been an issue in their community.
"Freshman year there was a video with racial slurs being said,” Brittanee Jackson, a senior at the high school, told local outlet News 4. “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.” With this background, Jackson said she was both “shocked” by the racist messages on the walls and at the same time, wasn’t.
“This needs to stop,” the anonymous student who found the graffiti told Fox 2 St. Louis, explaining that he went to multiple bathrooms and found “slang and racism” on every wall.
“As a Black man myself, I find it just very discriminating,” he added. “I don’t know why anyone would do that. I don’t know what they would have against us.” The student told the outlet he’d seen this happen since his freshman year at the high school.
Principal Tim McCarthy described the hate speech as an “affront to the core values of our community and a serious violation of our discipline code” in a letter sent to parents.
The school is investigating the incident, and a spokesperson for the Parkway told local outlet KSDK that officials were reviewing security cameras to determine who went into the bathroom before reports of the graffiti came in, adding that whoever is responsible will face consequences. But for students who say they’ve witnessed racism like this before, patience is thin.
"It was kind of like a culture shock to me,” Arie McGuire, a senior who transferred to the school in her junior year, told News 4. “Because before I went to a predominantly Black school, and now coming here and dealing with this, yeah it's crazy.” She added that the messages were “degrading.”
Xaviana Payne, a fellow senior, says it’s “embarrassing” because other people see their high school as one “you’d never want to go to” because of what happens to the students who attend it. She described noticing a divide between white and Black students at the school.
A student group called Students for Progressive Change shared a statement on Wednesday, pushing for tangible changes and real repercussions.
“High school students in Parkway (Students for Progressive Change) have been fighting for racial discrimination policy and tangible changes for years, but have gone unheard as racist incidents continue to happen with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators,” the statement reads. “Yet again here occurs another racist attack in the halls of Parkway Schools.”
You can get a visual of the size of the protest and some brief reporting below.