PALMDALE – Summerwind Elementary School Principal Linda Brandts and four teachers have been placed on administrative leave over a photo taken at the school that shows four women smiling and pointing at what appears to be a noose.
The controversial photo was brought to the Palmdale School District’s attention on Wednesday, according to Superintendent Raul Maldonado.
“An incident involving the discovery of a noose and inappropriate responses to that discovery occurred at Summerwind Elementary School,” Maldonado said in a statement emailed to The AV Times. “The principal and the personnel involved in this matter have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. We will proceed with the investigation immediately. We will not stop until we find out exactly what did occur. We will not tolerate this type of behavior in our schools. We hold the highest standards and expectations for our employees. We will follow process and procedures to conduct the investigation.”
It was not clear who took the picture or when the picture was taken. It had been widely circulated on social media as of Thursday afternoon, causing outrage among parents.
“It looks like a noose, a noose used to hang my ancestors from trees… black people,” said Denise Royal, whose three children attend Summerwind Elementary. Royal said she called the school immediately after seeing the photo.
“There was no explanation, no denials. They just told me to call the [Palmdale] School District,” Royal said, adding that she was disgusted by the picture and wanted to remove her children from the school.
“That’s my daughter’s first-grade teacher, Miss Campos, in the picture – all giggling and laughing,” Royal said. “I want [the principal] fired, point blank period!”
Community activist Dr. Miguel Coronado held a press conference outside the school Thursday afternoon to call attention to the issue.
“The issue in the community is that this was very insensitive, especially when you have white teachers posing with a historical racial artifact,” Coronado said. “I spoke to many African-American parents who were very disturbed and said they would be pulling their kids from the school district.”
Coronado said he was told that the school’s principal had emailed the picture to all staff at Summerwind Elementary before it began circulating on social media.
“We’re concerned that the principal found it so funny that she circulated it. Obviously, it’s not funny. It’s infuriating, upsetting and disturbing, especially coming from teachers who educate black and brown kids,” Coronado said. Brandts could not be reached for comment Thursday or to confirm whether or not she had emailed the photo to Summerwind Elementary staff.
“As an American Federation of Teachers member, this is not a reflection of teachers in the Antelope Valley. We have to be careful not to blanket all teachers as racially insensitive,” Coronado added.
Coronado and other community leaders are encouraging concerned parents and residents to attend the Palmdale School District Board meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21. There also will be a community townhall meeting at 6 p.m. that day at the Living Praise Christian Church, located at 2320 East Avenue R in Palmdale. The townhall will address concerns at Summerwind Elementary School and the Palmdale School District, as well as issues involving the Antelope Valley Union High School District, Coronado said.
For more information on the townhall, contact Dr. Miguel Coronado at 661-466-6810.
UPDATED 5.16.19: Several theories have floated around on social media, but an official explanation on the context behind the noose photo has not yet been released. At a packed community townhall meeting Tuesday night (5/14) hosted by the Palmdale School District, Superintendent Raul Maldonado confirmed that the picture was taken by Principal Linda Brandts and she also emailed it to Summerwind Elementary staff. The noose was found in a storage room at the school, according to media reports. The educators are still on paid leave and the investigation into the noose photo could take up to two weeks to be completed, according to the Palmdale School District’s general counsel.