Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen condemned imagery of a pair of nooses on display in Roosevelt Middle School that have gone viral since last week and called on the district to take action in a statement Monday morning.
“This imagery that was on display in a Roosevelt Middle School classroom is undoubtedly racist and should not be tolerated in our town or any other community,” Gillen said. “The imagery is also deeply insensitive and troubling to anyone with mental health issues and those contemplating suicide.”
Gillen’s comments have come following a viral outcry over an image on a poster board created by three teachers in one of the school’s classrooms depicting two nooses labeled “back to school necklaces” beside photos of the three teachers.
The image, two nooses on a poster board decorated with stickers that say “Ha Ha,” #yes and a pink smiley face, has since gone viral, receiving coverage from national media as well as a response in the form of a tweet from Chelsea Clinton.
“A middle school on Long Island displayed two nooses with the tag ‘back to school necklaces,” the tweet said. “It’s more than ‘racially offensive.’ It’s racist and sickening.”
“The Roosevelt School District is aware of the inappropriate conduct at the Roosevelt Middle School,” the district said in a statement. “The Board of Education was made aware of this incident on Thursday, February 7, 2019. An investigation was immediately initiated and appropriate action taken.”
“The Board of Education has zero tolerance for the display of racially offensive images,” the statement said.
Roosevelt Middle School’s student population is nearly 45 percent black, according to data from the state Education Department, and the image has been viewed as racially charged.
In a Facebook post last week, Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral Pastor Arthur Mackey Jr. called for the firing of three teachers alleged pictured and involved with the composition of the poster board.
“I call on our great leaders of the Roosevelt School Board to fire anyone involved in this racist act against the children of color in the Roosevelt School system,” Mackey wrote.
A November 2018 article by the publication Closer suggests that the nature of the saying and images refer to the feeling of despair that ensnares pupils returning to school, and makes no mention of racial motives.
District administrators said they were unable to comment further because the issue is classified as a personnel matter. According to Newsday, the three teachers have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the controversy.
Efforts to reach the district superintendent’s office for comment were unavailing. An emergency board of education meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday night has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Roosevelt High School.