Ponderosa Elementary School Principal Shanna Swearingen, discussing a black student who has behavioral issues. She made a joke about calling the police the next time he ran to staffers.— ArmyVet (@nineapart) May 1, 2018
We won’t chase him. Call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come FAST pic.twitter.com/jQEOSZ2f9s
An elementary school principal in Houston, Texas, apparently thought it would be funny to joke about telling police that a special needs African-American student had a gun — and now she is facing consequences for her crude remarks.
Ponderosa Elementary School Principal Shanna Swearingen reportedly made the insensitive comments on April 17 in front of three staff members and one of her students. It didn’t take long for the word to spread on social media.
The young boy in question is an African-American student who reportedly has behavioral issues and is known to run away from the school. In order to deal with the student, Swearingen came up with joking idea that drew a lot of criticism.
“We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster,” the principal reportedly said, completely ignoring that police officers all too often shoot children of color and ask questions later.
Predictably, such a rash suggestion — that too coming from a person belonging to a position of authority — was bound to infuriate parents, with some of them calling for her to resign or be fired.
Even the school’s PTA President Michael Burnett, who first read about the comments through a school district’s Facebook group, had a hard time believing the principal’s choice of words and tried to defend her.
He went on to vouch for Swearingen by mentioning her efforts during Hurricane Harvey, where she apparently “worked in homes of all races.”
Nevertheless, the damage was already done and parents were alarmed with some of them suggesting disciplinary actions — including a special needs training.
"It's disgusting. That kind of comment is disgusting even if it was a joke how could you recant something like that?" a parent, Jessica Spoonemore, said. "Children are getting killed by gun violence and that was very unnecessary and disturbing especially for an elementary school."
"It's probably going down racial lines whether we want it to or not. I think it speaks to more of what we have going on in our country as much as it is going on at this school, but some action needs to be taken," another parent, Christopher Mitchell, added.
According to a local news outlet, the principal has taken responsibility for her words and has apologized to her students.
Swearingen also sent out a letter of an apology to parents, in which she sounded sorry for her callous choice of words and pressed upon the fact her momentary indiscretion doesn’t reflect her true character. “Your children mean the world to me, and I’m heartbroken that my thoughtless remark has caused disruption to the hard work underway here at Ponderosa,” she wrote. “Please know that the same commitment and drive that I had to make things right for our children after the storm, I have today as I work to make things right now with both staff and parents. I am truly sorry for the comment I made. It does not in any way reflect the love and care I have for the students of Ponderosa.”
The Spring Independent School District took notice of the disturbing episode and sent out a statement:
“While the comment was made in jest, it was inappropriate and should never have been made. That point has been thoroughly communicated to Ponderosa’s principal who actually self-reported the incident to the district ? taking full accountability for the inappropriateness of the comment. Ponderosa’s principal has also apologized to her school community. The district will continue to monitor the school climate at Ponderosa to ensure that incidents like this do not occur again.”
The principal’s seemingly earnest apology may make necessary amendments but the truth is she has touched upon a highly sensitive issue: the topic of police brutality against African-Americans.
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