PALMDALE (CBS) — Four teachers at an elementary school in Palmdale have reportedly been suspended after a photo of the quartet surfaced showing them holding a noose and laughing.
Outraged parents stood outside the Summerwind Elementary School Thursday morning demanding answers.
Some of the parents told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Dave Lopez that the person who reportedly took the photograph is the school’s principal. The principal has also been suspended, Lopez reported.
The firestorm started in the last 24-48 hours.
Lopez was told the photo was only supposed to be shared among a small group of friends and was never intended to be put on social media.
The picture did find its way onto the internet and then, the outcry.
A second photo showed the noose hanging on what looks like a pillar inside a school office.
The fallout was immediate.
“You know the meaning behind it,” says parent James Florence, “behind our history, and you know you’re going to get backlash for it if it gets out.. And obviously it did.”
Another parent was even more outraged.
“If you look at the picture, you can see that they’re smiling. And even if it’s a joke, you just don’t play like this,” he said.
The man added, “It’s appalling, it’s frustrating, it’s beyond words.”
According to parents, the woman smiling on the extreme left of the photo is Jennifer Garcia. She was known for testifying at the Gabriel Fernandez abuse and murder trial. As his first grade teacher, she testified that as his teacher, she could tell the boy was being physically harmed at home. She contacted the authorities.
Fernandez was the 8-year-old boy who died after he was abused and tortured by his mother and her boyfriend. His mother pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence. Her boyfriend went on trial, was found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty.
Lopez said he tried repeatedly to reach Garcia by phone but got no answer.
The district refused to identify any of the teachers in the photo.
Florence said he knew who the woman was who was holding the noose.
“I’ll give her name, it’s eventually going to come out,” he said, “That’s Miss Jones.”
He said he never had a problem with the woman.
“I heard she actually was a pretty good teacher for 20 some odd years,” he said.
Outside the school Thursday, angry activists joined the parents in support.
“I was infuriated,” said another parent who was there in support of a friend and her child. “I was just worried if he was okay. And if anything was happening to my son.”
“It’s time to move out of the state,” said one parent, “move out of this area.”
Lopez said he went to the district to see if he could get an on-camera comment from anyone connected to the school, preferably the superintendent. He was told by the school there would be no statements made on camera.
All the school district would say is that all four teachers and the principal have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
Two parents who said their daughter was in Miss Garcia’s first grade class said she reported to work today but that other teachers demanded she leave. And she did.
Lopez asked for confirmation about the suspensions from the school’s office and was told “no comment.”