The report is finally in. We can’t say we’re surprised by the results, either.
After waiting four months, Garcia Hernandez Sawhney, LLP, finally concluded their investigation into the incident, which depicted four Summerwind Elementary School teachers posing with a noose.
The Palmdale School District hired the firm to conduct the investigation, after the photo was emailed to all Summerwind staff members by former principal Linda Brandts.
Not surprisingly, the photo went viral and was quickly plastered all over the TV news, social media and even the Antelope Valley Press.
Parents were outraged at the seemingly cruel and inappropriate actions of these teachers. They demanded they and Brandts be fired — and with good reason. Who could trust them with their children if they are capable of making bad decisions such as posing with a noose?
The Garcia Hernandez Sawhney report details the accusations, findings and statements from the teachers, principal and witnesses. In summary, the teachers were cleaning out an old classroom and found the noose among the other items that were stored in that classroom. They all began joking about being at the end of their ropes and having a lot of work still ahead of them before the end of the year. They joked about hanging themselves, among other things.
They showed the photo to Brandts, who thought it would be funny to share with the rest of the staff, so she had one of the teachers email it to everyone from Brandts’s phone.
That was a big mistake. The photo was quickly sent to a TV news station and tips began rolling into the AV Press newsroom, with a copy of the photo.
The teachers and principal all claim they didn’t know the historical and racial significance of a noose. One teacher went as far as to say she had no idea what a noose was until she showed her husband the photo.
Come on. You’re telling us that, as a teacher, with a college education, who is responsible for teaching children, you don’t know what a noose is?
It sounds like that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. They’d rather claim ignorance than admit that what they did was in very poor taste.
We’d have more respect for them if they admitted what they did was wrong and apologized to everyone. But that would probably mean they’d be fired.
The report concluded that there was no racial animus behind the photo or the teachers’ and principal’s actions.
It was determined that it was just a joke about their workload and nothing more.
We’d like to believe that’s true, but how do we know? We have four adults claiming ignorance to the significance of a noose, yet we’re supposed to believe that what they were doing was an innocent joke?
Even if it was, that photo should have never been taken and certainly never distributed. Brandts, as the principal, should have known better.
Instead of waiting for the outcome of the investigation, Brandts took a job elsewhere and left the area, leaving the teachers to face the consequences on their own. How’s that for leadership?
It doesn’t appear that the teachers will face any type of serious disciplinary action, but that does remain to be seen. Garcia Hernandez Sawhney did not suggest any disciplinary action, as those decisions are up to the District’s Board of Trustees and their counsel.
However, they did suggest that all employees should participate in “cultural sensitivity training that includes training on historical symbols of oppression,” “require all school employees to participate in training related to the appropriate use of school technology, email and social media” and “remind school employees about the District’ non-discrimination policies, civility police and policies governing employee professional standards.”
They also found that the teachers and former principal created a hostile work environment with the photo and displaying the noose in the teachers lounge.
They also violated Board policies and caused extreme pain, anguish and trauma on Summerwind Elementary staff, students, parents and the broader Palmdale School District community.
Those things, alone, should be enough to convince the Board to terminate them. Maybe, if there is a next time, they’ll think twice before doing something so inconsiderate, then using ignorance as an excuse.