Four elementary school teachers in Palmdale, California, have been suspended after a photo of them holding a noose surfaced, CBS Los Angeles reports. The four teachers are smiling in the photo, which was allegedly taken by the principal of Summerwind Elementary School, parents from the school told CBS Los Angeles.
The principal has also been suspended, CBS Los Angeles reports. Parents were 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," one parent said. "It's appalling, it's frustrating, it's beyond words."
The photo of the four teachers was meant to be seen by a small group but made its way onto the internet, sparking a 48-hour firestorm in the community, CBS Los Angeles reports. A second photo showed the noose hanging on what looks like a pillar inside a school office.
"You know the meaning behind it, behind our history. And you know you're going to get backlash for it if it gets out. And obviously it did," parent James Florence said. He identified one of the teachers in the photo – the one holding the noose – as Miss Jones.
Florence said he never had a problem with the teacher. "I've heard she actually was a pretty good teacher for 20-some-odd years," he told CBS Los Angeles.
Parents and teachers identified another woman in the photo as Jennifer Garcia, who is known for testifying in the abuse and murder trial of an 8-year-old boy, Gabriel Fernandez. Garcia was the boy's first-grade teacher and testified that as his teacher she could tell he was being physically abused at home. Fernandez's mother pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence. Her boyfriend was found guilty and sentenced to death.
CBS Los Angeles was unable to reach Garcia for comment about the photo. The school district would not identify the teachers to the station.
Two parents, who said their daughter is in Garcia's class, told CBS Los Angeles she reported to work on Thursday. The parents said teachers demanded that Garcia leave – and she did. The school would not comment on that when CBS Los Angeles asked for confirmation.
The school district would only tell CBS Los Angeles that all four teachers and the principal have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. The district didn't immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.
Activists and parents gathered outside the school on Thursday. One person said they were "infuriated" and worried about the children. Another said it's time to move out of the area.