Shanna Swearingen, Principal of Ponderosa Elementary School in Houston, Texas, made an inappropriate comment about a black special needs student on April 17. The comment calls into question a boy known for his behavioral issues. As he often causes trouble and runs away from school, Swearingen attempted a joke to make light of the repeating problem.
“We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster,” she said in front of three staff members and one student, according to Click2Houston.
While a brief comment, Swearingen’s attempt at humor is not to be taken lightly. Her words attack the students’ troubling behavior instead of trying to help him. She makes police brutality and gun violence the punchline of her “joke,” although both issues disproportionately affect black individuals like the student she’s making fun of. These are serious allegations to place on a young student with behavioral problems.
“It’s probably going down racial lines whether we want it to or not,” Christopher Mitchell, a parent in the school district also told Click2Houston. “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.”
Other parents in the school district have also lashed back against Swearingen’s words, drawing attention to the insensitivity of a gun violence comment, especially in a country where school shootings are not a rare occurrence.
“Even if it was a joke how could you recant something like that?” Jessica Spoonemore, another parent in the district, said. “Children are getting killed by gun violence and that was very unnecessary and disturbing especially for an elementary school.”
As this tweet accelerates, I want to note that this is not a Texas story. The abuse of disabled kids, black kids, and especially black disabled kids, is a national problem. https://t.co/K6ehld88os
— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) May 2, 2018
Swearingen responded to the outrage on Tuesday with a message to the families of Ponderosa. She wrote that her comment was “insensitive” and “not reflective of who [she is] nor how much [she cares] about every student who attends this school.”
The district and board of trustees have promised to watch the school climate and make sure that situations similar to this do not happen again. While they have assured the community that they take “matters of this nature seriously, we do not discuss disciplinary action pertaining to personal matters,” officials said. As of now, no action has been taken against Swearingen or her position at the school.