‘Back to School Necklaces’?: New York Teachers Fired, One Suspended Over Classroom Display Featuring Noose Photos

Two teachers in Long Island, N.Y., were fired and a third placed on paid suspension after images of nooses were displayed as part of a photo collage inside a school classroom last month.

Parents of students at Roosevelt Middle School were outraged upon learning of the “offensive” display, which featured pictures of two nooses labeled as “back to school necklaces,” along with the words “ha” and “#yes.” According to News 12 Long Island, the photos were reportedly found on one of the teacher’s desks.

Roosevelt Middle School

Roosevelt School District officials said “appropriate” action has been taken against the teachers involved. (Image courtesy of Arthur L. Mackey Jr.)

What’s worse, the display went up during Black History Month. State Education Department data for the 2017-18 school year also showed that over half of the district’s students are Latino while 45 percent are African-American.

“The Roosevelt School District is aware of the inappropriate conduct at the Roosevelt Middle School,” officials said upon learning of the incident in early February. “The Board of Education has zero tolerance for the display of racially offensive images.”

On Tuesday, the Roosevelt School Board voted 4-0 to terminate the two teachers found to be involved with the racist display. A third teacher was placed on paid leave, and Newsday reports that a fourth teacher is also being investigated. The two fired teachers were non-tenured but had been working for the district for a few years. Meanwhile, the suspended teacher is tenured, and that one’s fate has yet to be decided.

Citing privacy reasons, district officials haven’t named any of the employees involved. The disciplinary action comes more than a month after the district placed all three teachers on administrative leave.

The Rev. Arthur Mackey Jr., who alerted administrators to photos of the display on social media, seemed satisfied with the board’s decision and called it a step “forward in the right direction.”

“Whether [the display] was done out of ignorance, whether it was done out of spite, we do not want those teachers back in the classroom,” said Mackey, senior pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt. “Of course, the teacher that has tenure has to go through a hearing, but we’ll pay close attention to that.”

Students and parents who spoke to News 12 seemed split on the situation.

“I’m glad that something was done because sometimes in the poorer neighborhoods, nothing is even addressed at all,” parent Christine Coleman said. “And for none of the parents to even know what happened until it blew up, it was disgusting.”

Roosevelt student Christian Knight felt much differently, however, and said she didn’t think firing the teachers was the answer.

“They were really nice people,” she said of her former teachers. “They were kind, they helped the students. They were just really good teachers.”

Marnie Hazelton, the district’s superintendent, estimated that 100 students had been “scarred” by the noose incident and are now dealing the pain of losing their teachers. In an interview with NewsDay, she said: “They have developed connections with teachers. I try to remind everyone involved that there are students who are hurting.”

District officials haven’t yet commented on the matter.

Watch more in the video below.

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