Family of Lee’s Summit teen with canceled water park party is getting threats now

·4 min read
Mara' Rose Williams/The Star

The family of the Black teen whose birthday party was abruptly canceled by a Lee’s Summit public water park last week is receiving threats of violence after they accused park officials of racially profiling them.

The family, in interviews with The Star Editorial Board, had also called for the city to reprimand Summit Waves employees and make sure no park customers are discriminated against in the future.

Chris Evans, the father of the teen, condemned the threats that have appeared mostly on social media. Some of the threats directly targeted his sons.

“Violence has no place in the effort to respond to racism in our community and country,” Evans said, in a statement released Thursday. The family hasn’t reported the threats to the police.

Threats of violence are never appropriate under any circumstance, and this family certainly should not be harassed for calling out an obvious wrong on the part of the Summit Waves aquatic park run by the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department.

Violence has also been threatened against a Summit Waves employee, a park lifeguard who, after the party was canceled, made disparaging remarks about the family in a social media post, accompanied with a selfie and smiling face icon.

This type of intimidation only breeds more discrimination and mistreatment because people subjected to such abuse often become inhibited from speaking up. As a result, discrimination keeps happening in the dark.

We therefore applaud the Evans family, both for bringing attention to the initial wrong but also for publicly airing the blowback they’ve received for doing so. How else can wrongs be corrected?

Evans said in his statement that his “family and those in attendance who were denied entrance to the water park last weekend, met the hurtful events of that night with peace.

“Peace is what will continue to move the needle in ensuring that all African Americans and other minorities and disadvantaged members of our society are treated equally,” the statement said.

And the hate has spread beyond the Evans family. Thursday evening, review site Yelp suspended users from posting new comments about Summit Waves. Noting that the park’s entry had suddenly gotten a large number of new reviews, a post read, “Racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any form.”

The Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department issued a public apology to the Evans family more than two days after city officials became aware of how poorly Chris, his wife, LeyShon, their sons and their guests were treated at the entrance of the water park.

The public water park refused to admit the family that had contracted for a private party with 250 guests. Video that circulated on social media showed a park employee telling the family park staffers canceled their party because the group made them “uncomfortable.” City officials later said they were concerned because the teens had posted plans for the event on social media. Park officials said they worried “the event would grow beyond the capacity of staff.”

Evans had paid $2,000 for the event and arranged for additional security. City officials said they tried to call the family in advance to cancel the party. Evans told us that neither he nor his wife had any record of emails, voice messages or texts from the city.

Ivan Nugent, the attorney for the Evans family, said a city attorney called Thursday to let him know about the threats against the park employee.

“Let us be very clear — the Evans family denounces any form of violence and requests an immediate stop to any threats being made to Summit Waves employees,” Chris Evans’ statement said.

Evans declined to be more specific about what was said in the threats because, he said, “it is not the substance of them that is important. It is the safety of everyone involved.”

The family is still evaluating what to do regarding the city’s cancellation of the family’s planned party, Nugent said. “We are continuing to analyze whether litigation is necessary.”

Chris Evans said his family “is pressing forward, peacefully.”

The community, including those making threats against the Evans family and the city’s water park employee should do the same.

As Evans said in his statement: “There is no place for violence in this effort. Violence will only distract from the ultimate goal — and that is unity and community building.”