Principal and Staff Photographed Holding Noose Are Placed on Administrative Leave

The principal and four teachers at a California elementary school have been placed on administrative leave after a photo of the teachers posing and smiling with what appears to be a noose went viral.

The racist photo was reportedly taken in a Summerwind Elementary School classroom in Palmdale, California and was shared on social media without a caption, according to the Los Angeles Times. The photo was reportedly taken and distributed by the elementary school’s principal, Linda Brandts. A May 8 statement on the district’s Facebook page confirmed that the educators were placed on administrative leave and that an investigation was underway.

“I am appalled that this incident occurred. I am committed to the Palmdale Promise’s values of equity, integrity, and multiculturalism, and I know that most of the district believe in the same values the Promise upholds,” Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado wrote. “We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our district’s pledge to do right by our community.”

The photo sparked outrage and caused some parents to pull their children from school for a few days, the Antelope Valley Press reported. Breyan Clemmons, a parent whose child attended the elementary school, told news station KABC that she removed her child from the school for good.

“We are disgusted. Absolutely disgusted,” Clemmons told 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?”

Palmdale’s population is 58.6 percent Latinx, 22.1 percent white, and 12.5 percent Black, according to census data. In a statement on Twitter, California State Assemblyman Tom Lackey, who served on the Palmdale School District Board of Trustees for six years, said he was “saddened” by the photo. He added that he believes the school district “can overcome and learn from this disturbance.” “I am saddened by the negative impacts associated with this. I am confident the Palmdale School District will investigate this matter and follow-up with the appropriate actions,” Lackey wrote.

A similar incident occurred in a classroom in Roosevelt Middle School in Long Island, New York several months ago. Images of a collage depicted two nooses with the words “back to school necklaces” were posted on social media in February. The photos were first circulated online by Pastor Arthur L. Mackey Jr. In March, the Roosevelt Union Free School District school board voted to fire two of the teachers involved while a third teacher, who is tenured, remains suspended with pay, NBC News reported. It remains unclear who made the collage or how long it was in the classroom, according to the news station.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations' 2017 hate crime report found that 10.5 percent of hate crimes occurred at school or on college campuses. The data also found that this is the third consecutive year hate crimes have increased, reporting that hate crimes rose 17 percent in 2017.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.