Controversy continues to swirl regarding a photograph of four teachers at Summerwind Elementary School in Palmdale smiling and posing with a noose. Each individual and the school’s principal have been placed on leave pending an investigation.
The photo circulated on email and social media, although the circumstances around the origin of the noose and administrative response afterward remain under investigation.
The image shows the four teachers in question without a caption or context for the photo. Some parents who learned about the image said it was allegedly taken by the school’s principal, longtime educator Linda Brndts.
The Palmdale School District issued a statement shortly after the photo was viewed online and made national news:
“I am appalled that this incident occurred,” said Supt. Raul Maldonado. “I am committed to the Palmdale Promises’ values of equity, integrity and multiculturalism, and I know that most of the district believes(s) in the same values the Promise upholds. We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our district’s pledge to do right by our community.”
Outcry among parents and others in the community followed the discovery of the photo. Breyson Clemmons, a parent at the school, said she kept her 10-year-old daughter home from school afterward.
“We are disgusted. Absolutely disgusted,” 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 Antelope Valley NAACP comdemned the photo and issued the following statement:
“The A.V. NAACP is deeply troubled by recent events at Summerwind Elementary School. The photo of four adult staff members posing in a classroom at the school with a noose is intensely disturbing. Even more disturbing is the (alleged) decision of the school principal to email the photo the entire staff of the school.
“The noose has long been a symbol in American history of terror and racial injustice. It has no place in our schools. The A.V. NAACP fears this photo and conduct by educational leaders entrusted to guide, empower and educate our students may be symptomatic of a climate on campus of racial and cultural prejudices.
“Even if the intentions were not racially motivated, teachers posing with a noose in a photo circulated school-wide via email displays an acute lack of judgment and a profound deficit in cultural and racial sensitivity. We expect our teachers to hold to a higher standard as role models for our community’s most valuable asset, our children.”