It was a poor attempt at an end-of-year “joke” — not racial animus — that prompted four California elementary school teachers to happily pose for a photo with a noose, district officials who reviewed the matter say.
Palmdale activist Najee Ali scoffed at the investigation’s findings however, and has called for further action against the teachers involved.
“As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t over with,” Ali told the Antelope Valley Press in a recent interview.
Three Summerwind Elementary School educators remain on leave after the offending photo, snapped by then-principal Linda Brandt, was sent in an e-mail blast to the entire school’s staff before making its way to social media. The image sparked outrage among parents who demanded their firings and even sought to confront the first-grade teachers themselves.
“We want (Brandt) out of here. I do personally!” parent Darrin Harper told FOX 11 at the time. “Because I know what she about. The pictures prove it, that’s what she about and that’s what she allow to go on. So she need to go.”
Ali was also among those calling for the ousters of Brandt and the unnamed teachers, who reportedly claimed ignorance when pressed about any racial implications of the photo. The activist said he isn’t buying their explanations.
“It’s hard for me to believe that out of the four teachers [and] one principal who were investigated, that not one of them understood the horrible, racial implications on what the noose means for African-Americans, historically,” he told the newspaper, calling it “disingenuous” that the group was allowed act as though they were unaware of the history behind the symbol.
“I think at the end of the day, we need to have an outside department look into investigating this further to really have the entire truth come out,” he added.
Brandt, who was in consideration to lead the Palmdale School District as superintendent, resigned from her post in May, the AV Press reported. The four teachers are still suspended as officials decide how to move forward, now that the investigation is complete.
A 36-page report of the inquiry detailed how one of educators found the noose while cleaning out an old classroom that had been used for storage. She then took it to the teacher’s lounge and showed it to former principal Brandt, who joined in repeating their end-of-the-year “hang in there” joke, according to the report.
That’s when Brandt took the picture of the four staffers, smiling and posing with the noose, at the suggestion of the teacher who found it. With Brandt’s permission, that teacher then used the principal’s phone to send the photo to all school staff. The email also included a photo of the noose hanging in someone’s office.
District officials selected a law firm to investigate the matter, a move Ali compared to “having the fox watch the hen house.”
“I’m not surprised at all by the findings,” he told the AV Press, calling the investigation a “whitewash.
The local activist is now calling for an independent review by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.