Hannibal community members demand School Board to fire Eugene Field Elementary principal

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 11:07 PM CST
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HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM) - Members of the Hannibal community, including parents, went in front of the Public School Board Wednesday night to share their concerns about the Eugene Field Elementary School principal.

Kelsey Whitley was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 23 for taking pictures of what some people found to be offensive Halloween decorations at a party and posting them to social media.

The school district announced on Oct. 30 that Whitley would return to her duties as principal on probationary status.

More than 50 upset people went to the Early Childhood Center for the meeting. Many of them demanded that Whitley be fired.

Some speakers said they were appalled that one of the photos was of what they described as a decoration with racial undertones.

Tinya Williams is a parent who said she is concerned for her daughter in the district.

“How can you teach and lead our children when your own judgement is in question?” Williams said. “Ms. Whitley wasn’t thinking of the end in mind, being respectful as a leader, being proactive, or being responsible for herself.”

Superintendent Susan Johnson said she is going to look into all the issues parents brought up at Wednesday’s meeting.

”The biggest thing is we are already doing some things, but it’s just the beginning and I think that’s the big takeaway,” Johnson said. “Any time, regardless of what the situation is, we have an opportunity to do something to make things better.”

Many people at the meeting requested that Whitley be terminated from her position and that all employees get thorough diversity and inclusion training. Parents said they now lack trust in the school board and the district.

They expressed confusion over what “probation” meant for Whitley. Johnson said some personnel matters are protected under law, but the board will look into which details about her probation can be shared publicly.

Johnson said district employees currently undergo virtual diversity training. However, she said they will discuss what else is needed in the district.

The School Board said they are going to use the statements made to look into further action.

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