Summerwind noose

Shantae Jackson (left) and Breyson Clemmons hold a picture of four Summerwind Elementary School teachers depicted with a noose Thursday afternoon at the school.

PALMDALE — The image of three Summerwind Elementary School teachers smiling and pointing at a noose held up by a fourth smiling teacher sparked outrage by the school’s parents and community activists who called for the quartet to be fired along with Principal Linda Brandts.

Though the circumstances surrounding the photo are not clear, parents and community members seem to think it was racially motivated.

Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado said that the fact that the photo lacks context will be part of the investigation.

“We are disgusted. Absolutely disgusted,” parent Breyon Clemmons said. “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?”

The picture, which lacks any caption or explanation, was reportedly taken last week. Some media reports said Brandts allegedly shared the photo in a mass email. That could not be confirmed, nor was it clear with whom the email was shared. There was another picture of a noose hanging on the end of a wall.

Palmdale School District administrators announced late Wednesday night, that Brandts had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the matter. By Thursday morning, the four first-grade teachers in the picture were also placed on administrative leave.

“As soon as we found out we started the investigation because we are concerned, ourselves,” Maldonado said. “We hold employees to the highest standards and want to make sure that they know what our expectations are.”

Maldonado said he and the District’s governing Board will conduct a thorough investigation.

“We will then take action … but right now we’re still trying to find out what happened,” he said. “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.”

Brandts could not be reached for comment.

According to Clemmons, a concerned staff member shared the photos with the District office last week. When nothing happened, the staff member shared it with the news media.

Clemmons kept her 10-year-old daughter Camille Boyd out of school on Thursday.

Camille, who is the fourth grade, said she had good days and bad days at school, but now she does not want to return.

“I don’t want to come to school because I feel like they’re going to hurt me or do something with the noose that they’re not supposed to do,” Camille said.

Clemmons said when the parents arrived at Summerwind in the morning, Brandts was not there, but the four teachers were there in class, ready to start school.

“The parents, we rallied together,” Clemmons said. “We said none of our students will go inside of those classrooms until those teachers walk out of here.”

The teachers were sent home.

Clemmons remained at the school to support other black parents as they pulled their students out.

“We’ve got to support each other as black parents,” Clemmons said. “This was an absolute slap in the face. Nothing was funny about it. I found no humor in it.”

Clemmons is considering whether to pull her daughter out of the school and enroll her in charter school.

Parent Tierra Harris also kept her eight-year-old daughter T’Anah out of school Thursday. Harris said she was mad and disgusted when she learned about the photo.

“We send our kids here to school to get educated and we trust the teachers and want them to feel safe,” she said. “When you get a picture like that you don’t trust the school. You don’t want your kid coming back here. It shows what they think about us. Even if it was a joke and it wasn’t supposed to surface and it did, it backfired. You’re not supposed to be joking about stuff like that. Because still to this day it happens.”

Harris added Brandts and the teachers in the photo should be fired.

“What the picture shows, it shows what they think,” Harris said. “They should not be working here. I don’t want my daughter coming back here.”

Littlerock Town Council member Waunette Cullors came out to Summerwind on Thursday for a press conference organized by activists.

“As a community leader we’re outraged by this,” Cullors said. “This is one of the reasons why people leave the school district. When you can’t even feel safe at your own school and you don’t feel wanted, how can you look up to this principal as someone you admire at this point?”

Bishop Henry Hearns, who was born and raised on a plantation in Mississippi, expressed hope that Maldonado will take drastic action to remove Brandts and the teachers from the school.

“Even if it was a prank, it does not belong in our school system,” Hearns said. “We’re doing everything that we can to prop up our kids so that they can feel safe and be in a learning environment.”

Community activist Ansar “Stan” Muhammad said the incident could be a teaching moment.

“My biggest concern is where do we go from here? he said. “How do we address this; how do we create a teaching moment to begin to educate not only the teachers, but all the administrators throughout the Valley? Because in my humble opinion, I don’t think this is a broad situation. It think it’s isolated.”

Muhammad added he would like to meet the teachers in the photo to ask them why they would do something like that.

“What was your motive?” he said, adding he was upset over the picture. “What was your intent?”

Community activist Miguel Coronado, whose wife works for the District, said he couldn’t believe it when he saw the picture.

“I can’t believe in 2019 our moral people will think that it’s OK to get together in the teachers’ lounge and pose for a  racist picture,” Coronado said.

(8) comments

stacytracy

Someone posted in another paper's comment section that the circumstances were a bachelorette party for a lady marrying a man named Lynch. They were calling themselves the "Lynch mob". Play on words. This is ridiculous. The school district has handled this very poorly, allowing race baiters to foment racism that isn't there and scare and scar the children. This should have been nipped in the bud from the get go. And why isn't the media trying to get both sides of the story?

Rach6

There are a lot of maybes in this story. Maybe they found this on the playground and picked it up and they’re saying what the heck. Maybe some child brought it as a cowboy Lasso. The parents have spoken how wonderful these teachers are without a harmful bone in their body. I think they are the ones to be believed

fyrman889

Typical snowflake reaction. The hangman's noose certainly isn't representative of racism unless you want it to be. People have been hanged since rope was invented and it has always been a form of execution. Not to mention the number of people who hang themselves and aren't Black. So the local Black population are offended because they WANT to be offended. Victim mentality. I'd like to know the context of the photo. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Shooter

You do realize that white Americans have been hanged by the noose right? I don’t see a bunch of whites crying because somebody showed a noose and laughed.
Get over yourselves

RoadRunner1987

Has there been a comment from Southern Kern USD, the school district that Brandts is a current board member of?

zinkjasonhotmailcom

Fake News!

Don't print story one-sided that may hurt people's lives. I'm Disgusted that AV Press would print such a planted radical politically motivated story to spread fake hate. All this does is make Antelope Valley look like a bunch of backwoods people too outside investment to create local jobs. Think before you print!

Kydude

No context for the picture. No cites motivation for the teachers. No quotes from the people in the picture. What is this article about? If I didn’t know any better, I would say this article belongs on the onion. So the position is, “It’s always racist for white people to take a picture with a piece of rope. No matter the context, reason or intent.” And because you have several parents who are willing to be outraged at anything you run with this story absent representation of the other side altogether. And I’m sorry, did you say the bishop grew up on a plantation? Are you insinuating the man was enslaved earlier in his life? What was meant by that? Finally, to cap off the article, you finish quoting someone saying that lynchings still happen today. Uh, where? When? Any evidence of these secret lynchings, or is that an allusion to the debunked Smollett case? You’re really running with quotes of people who are so misinformed or biased that they believe Smollett was legitimately harassed. This is a lazy and shameful piece.

Shooter

I myself would like to know what the picture is about also. Looks to me like he could have been I am inside joke having nothing to do with a specific race or death

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