As the country continues to grapple with the widespread criminalization of black youth, a Texas elementary school principal recently made troubling remarks about a black student and the police. Principal Shanna Swearingen reportedly joked about falsely telling police a young black boy with special needs brought a gun to school.
On April 17, Swearingen, principal at Ponderosa Elementary School in Houston, was overheard telling three staff members the concerning joke about the special-needs student, who is known for running from class, Click2Houston reported.
The principal was overheard saying, "We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster.”
News of Swearingen's remarks quickly spread on social media, and many are calling for disciplinary action. One parent, Christopher Mitchell, told local KPRC2 news station that the principal's comments were "racial" and that action needs to be taken.
"It's probably going down racial lines whether we want it to or not," he said. "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."
According to KPRC2, Swearingen sent the following letter to parents on Tuesday, May 1, following public backlash:
It is with a heavy heart that I write this message. As many of you may be aware, KPRC ran a story late yesterday about Ponderosa Elementary and an incident that occurred last week where I made an insensitive comment that was not reflective of who I am nor how much I care about every student who attends this school.
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. Here in our community, we had a hard year with Hurricane Harvey, and the damage it caused to a large part of our neighborhood. I was so proud of the unity seen in this community during the recovery efforts.
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.
Shanna Swearingen, Principal
Ponderosa Elementary School"
The school district under which Ponderosa operates released a statement Monday calling the principal's comments "thoughtless and insensitive," KPRC2 reported. The Spring Independent School District stated the principal self-reported the incident and took full accountability for her comments. Spring Independent School District also added that it takes "matters of this nature very seriously" but that it won't relay "disciplinary action pertaining to personnel matters."