Parents of students at a Long Island, N.Y., middle school are outraged after teachers allegedly displayed an “offensive” noose photo in a classroom last week, so much so that the school district is now investigating.
The photo, embedded as part of a collage inside a Roosevelt Middle School classroom, reportedly featured two nooses labeled “back to school necklaces,” according to the New York Daily News. Citing a statement from the Hempstead town supervisor, the newspaper reported that nearly half (45 percent) of the school’s students are Black, while 55 percent are Hispanic or Latino.
“I was very upset about it,” Yvette Hudson of Roosevelt, whose kids are former students of the school, told News 12 Long Island. “I mean, if they feel that way then they’re in the wrong school district.”
Savitri Lekhram of Hempstead was a bit more forgiving and thought maybe the photo was a “joke.”
“That may not be what they’re trying to say,” Lekhram told the station. “It’s probably just a joke; it probably has nothing to do with African-Americans or anything. But at the same time, they can still draw that connection.”
On Sunday, the Roosevelt School District said it had taken the “appropriate action” against the three teachers involved, but it remained tight-lipped on what officials called a “personnel matter.” A statement posted to the district’s webpage said officials were made aware of the incident on Feb. 7 and an investigation was immediately launched.
“The Roosevelt School District is aware of the inappropriate conduct at the Roosevelt Middle School,” it reads. “The Board of Education has zero tolerance for the display of racially offensive images.”
The rebuke didn’t go far enough for Arthur Mackey Jr., a pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral, who said a friend who teaches at the school showed him the photo, which also featured the words “ha” and “#yes.” Mackey said he confirmed the picture’s authenticity before reaching out to school administrators.
“Once that was brought to my attention and I saw the picture, we knew that we had to stand up and inform the public,” he told NBC News on Sunday. “All we’re asking is after a thorough investigation, that whoever is involved in this racist image be fired.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen echoed his sentiments.
“This imagery that was on display in a Roosevelt Middle School classroom is undoubtedly racist and should not be tolerated in our Town, or any other community,” Gillen said in a statement Sunday. “The imagery is also deeply insensitive and troubling to anyone with mental health issues and those contemplating suicide.”
The supervisor argued that teachers should be held to a higher standard that the district should “immediately dismiss” whoever was responsible for the racist display.
“A clear message needs to be sent that there is simply no place in our schools and in our society for this type of racist, hateful and insensitive imagery,” she added.