Four teachers and the principal of a school north of Los Angeles are being investigated over a photo of the teachers smiling and holding what appears to be a noose, the superintendent said.
Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado said in a statement posted on Facebook Thursday that “an incident involving the discovery of a noose and possibly inappropriate responses to that discovery” at Summerwind Elementary School came to his attention on Wednesday.
Maldonado said the principal is on administrative leave. The four first-grade teachers are on leave as well, the Antelope Valley Times reports.
“I am appalled that this incident occurred,” Maldonado said. “We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our District’s pledge to do right by our community.”
Dr. Miguel Coronado, a local activist, said at a press conference outside the school Thursday that principal Linda Brandts circulated the photo among all the school staff, according to the Times.
The newspaper said it could not reach Brandts for comment.
“We’re concerned that the principal found it so funny that she circulated it. Obviously, it’s not funny. It’s infuriating, upsetting and disturbing, especially coming from teachers who educate black and brown kids,” Coronado said, according to the Times. “The issue in the community is that this was very insensitive, especially when you have white teachers posing with a historical racial artifact.”
The circumstances around the picture aren’t clear, but it was “reportedly taken last week,” the Antelope Valley Press reports.
“We are disgusted. Absolutely disgusted,” parent Breyon Clemmons said, according to the Antelope Valley Press. “We drop our kids off with the idea that we are sending them to a culturally competent institution for learning. We think that we’re sending them to a school; they’re safe. Never do we think we’re sending them to a plantation where they got nooses hanging up, and holding on to nooses. Taking pictures and smiling, where’s the humor?”
Some parents were so angry they wouldn’t let their children go back to the school this week, KABC reports.
“Do you know what they use that for? They use that to hang African-American people — that’s what they do — and kill them,” parent Tierra Harris told her daughter as she removed her from the school, according to KABC. “They still do it to this day. I don’t want you going here because I don’t want you to feel like that.”
Many called for the women involved, including the principal, to be fired, local media reports said.
“That’s my daughter’s first-grade teacher...in the picture – all giggling and laughing,” said Denise Royal, who has three children at the school, the Times reports. “I want [the principal] fired, point blank period!”
Maldonado said the district will take more action once the investigation into the photo is completed.
“We will then take action … but right now we’re still trying to find out what happened,” Maldonado said, according to the Antelope Valley Press. “We don’t tolerate this type of behavior, but at this point we don’t know what really happened. Until the investigation occurs and we have the findings, we’ll take action after that.”