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New protests over decision to keep Hazelwood seniors from walking at graduation

HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) - Parents and students in the Hazelwood School District are coming together to try to reverse the suspensions of dozens of students who walked out of class to show support for their teachers.

Community members gathered at the Ward Chapel AME Church near Florissant Wednesday night to discuss any legal recourse for the suspensions and to coordinate a response to the district.

The students were suspended after they walked out of class Monday to protest contract negotiations between the teacher's union representing a majority of the district's teachers, and the district. Several students are seniors and have been barred from participating in the graduation ceremony Saturday.

The current union contract ends June 30th and the district and union have been at odds throughout the winter and spring. ​Students were disappointed to learn some of their favorite teachers are not returning next year.

At a packed school board meeting Tuesday night, the union agreed to contract terms "under protest."

Community members were upset when the board did not take public comments regarding the suspensions.

Parents are working with the ACLU on a remedy to allow suspended seniors to attend graduation.

"These are some of our best kids," said School Board Member Mark Behlmann. "These are kids with scholarships. I spoke with one father last night whose daughter is going to Wash U. And she's one of the ones that will not be able to walk, and it's a shame because the punishment doesn't fit the purpose."

Behlmann has been sympathetic to the suspended students and argued there should have been an opportunity for public comment at Tuesday night's board meeting.

Fox 2 News contacted the district administration and other members of the board, but they did not make themselves available for comment. Parents are working with a legal team from the ACLU to try to get a judge to issue an injunction to halt the suspensions.