Teachers and Principal of Predominately Black and Brown Students Bring Noose to School
Early this month in Palmdale, California (outside of Los Angeles), four teachers, and the principal, were seen holding a noose in the school office after a photo of them circulated social media. The four teachers and the principal of Summerwind Elementary School were placed on leave but not fired.
Following the incident the Superintendent of Schools, Raul Maldonado issued a statement meant to reassure parents, “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[s] in the same values the Promise upholds.” However, parents remain concerned about these apparently racist acts and a lack of diversity and sensitivity in their district.
Parent Shaka Phillips, “The integrity of the school is completely compromised. To the black community, a noose is a weapon, a symbol of slavery and lynching.”
A school environment that somehow encourages, or normalizes joking about a noose by teachers, is especially concerning in a school where the student body of is 18% Black, 65% Latino, and 9% White. Summerwind, like most elementary schools in the US, is staffed mostly by white teachers and administrators.
This is true for elementary and high schools all over the United States. The National Center for Educational Statistics found during the 2014-2015 school year that the overwhelming majority of teachers teaching in Elementary and Secondary schools are white: 80%. Individual schools are not mandated to make public the diversity (lack of diversity) of their teachers. They are mandated to make public their student demographics and are even given high ratings for the diversity of their student body.
Meanwhile, data shows that increasing teacher diversity can improve student success and reduce dropout rates.
Schools may be slow to reform but parents at Summerwind wasted no time mobilizing a protest outside the school on May 9. They protested outside the school until the teachers in the photo were removed from classrooms. The principal in the photo, Linda Brandts, was herself, not on campus that day. The four teachers were, eventually, sent home per the demands of organized parents.
In various reports about the Palmdale school’s noose incident, community members are calling for a variety of reforms and citing incidences like this one as a reason why many are leaving the district. Some believe the incident has created an opportunity for teaching and learning, but many want racist teachers fired. “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,” said Breyson Clemmons, “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?”
An unnamed teacher who works at the school reportedly said, before the incident, that the predominately white teachers are a problem.
Twitter user @davitydave expressed his outrage by pointing out there is no way in 2019 that educators can claim innocence. He calls their actions “racist AF.”
Telemundo52 News Reporter, Dinorah Perez, tweeted about the story by quoting a parent from Summerwind Elementary. The parent, like many others, expressed worry and fear about bringing her child to school.
@techSMIF, a former resident of Palmdale, where the incident took place, cites people like those trolling the comments about the incident as the reason he’d never move back to that city.
Based on reports by residents, and former residents, the city of Palmdale, or at least the schools, are inequitable places where the seats of power are reserved for the privileged few, and where some of those with power abuse it. Not unlike the Idaho teachers, who last Halloween, posed in photos wearing a Mexican border wall costume that said, “Make America Great Again.”
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.”