Several students walked out of Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, in protest of the school administrators’ handling of a recent altercation. The incident involved a white male student using racial slurs and physically assaulting a Black female student, resulting in her hospitalization with a fractured nose.
The students, numbering dozens, gathered outside the school on November 29 at 11 a.m., chanting slogans such as “We want change,” “Have our backs,” and “How many more times?” They displayed signs with messages like “We demand action! Protect students of color,” “We don’t feel safe,” and “Take action now.” The participants described the incident as a hate crime and emphasized that it was part of a pattern of racist acts that they claim have gone unpunished by school officials.
Senior Charlize Littlejohn stated that racism has been an ongoing issue at the school, with multiple incidents occurring without effective resolution. She expressed frustration with the lack of change and said, “We’re just exhausted. Trying to go to class, it really affects us.”
According to eyewitnesses, the altercation between two sophomore students took place in a school hallway. A video obtained by The Star showed a verbal exchange between a Black female student and another student, followed by a white male student intervening and using offensive language. The situation escalated to physical violence, with both students punching each other. School leaders eventually intervened after other students called for assistance.
District spokeswoman Kristin Babcock refrained from commenting on the specific incident due to student privacy concerns but emphasized that the district takes instances of racism and physical assault seriously. She stated, “We do have a code of conduct in place, and we follow our policies and procedures.”
The consequences faced by the white male student remain unclear, but students at the rally expressed dissatisfaction with what they perceived as an insufficient suspension. Littlejohn criticized the lack of communication and recognition from administrators, asserting that previous attempts by students to address racist incidents with school officials have been unproductive.
Students at the rally called for stricter measures against racism and advocated for harsher penalties for discrimination and hate speech. Shawnee Mission East High School, with approximately 1,700 students, is reported to be about 83% Caucasian, according to The Star. Data from the Kansas State Department of Education indicates that over 8% of students are Hispanic, roughly 5% are multiracial, and less than 2% are Black.
Littlejohn, reflecting on the incident, stated, “We were all there. We all watched it. It was emotional and it was traumatizing.” She expressed a desire for change and a sense of insecurity, stating, “I’m not going to feel safe in class. Because that could have been anybody. He could have done it to anybody. And I think that’s just scary something like that can happen inside of a school.”