A federal judge in Missouri declined to rescind the expulsion of four Kansas City high school students who were disciplined for creating an online petition to “start slavery again,” the Associated Press reports.
According to the report, last September the students were on a bus with the freshman football team when one of them wrote a petition on Change.org titled “Start Slavery again.” The student said he was joking with a Black student about jobs and slaves.
After one student shared the petition on the football team’s Snapchat group and the other three students all approvingly commented on the petition.
Other students reported the petition to school administrators and when an internal investigation was conducted, the students admitted they created the petition but explained that it was a joke.
In response to their suspension, the students filed a lawsuit saying “their First Amendment and due process rights were violated.” The suit argues that racial slurs were common practice at Park Hill South, “most often in friendly bantering,” and that one of the Black students instigated the incident but was never disciplined. One student was expelled and three others were suspended for 180 days.
The students are requesting to be reinstated and to have the incident expunged from their school records.
Arthur Benson, the student's attorney, said the incident stemmed from “youthful bad judgment” that began with Black and biracial students.
“Three whites boys in similar bad judgment wanted in on the joke, intended only for the freshman players,” Benson said in an email. “This bad judgment was punished as heinous acts that no one now still claims them to be.”
U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough said that the majority of the public was in favor of denying the student's reinstatement. Also, he claimed that the students may not have intended for the petition to be circulated beyond the team, but it caused “substantial disruption” at the high school and the discipline that the district handed down was justifiable.
Benson has not decided if he plans to appeal the ruling.