Greenville ISD Investigates Photo of Teacher's Foot on Black Student's Neck

The student's mother said it was a 'joke,' wasn't offended, and wants the teacher to keep her job; other family members feel different

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UPDATE: Greenville ISD said the district accepted the teacher's resignation on April 22. The district said the teacher who took a picture of her foot on a student's neck resigned through her attorney once learning her termination was included on GISD Board of Trustees' draft agenda for April 27.

Wednesday morning Greenville Independent School District sent an apology letter to parents after a picture surfaced on social media of a teacher with her foot on a Black student's neck.

The district said the Lamar Elementary teacher is currently on administrative leave as GISD investigates what happened.

“My initial thought when seeing the photo was actually disgust and concern for the child in the picture," said GISD Superintendent Demtrus Liggins, Ph.D. “Again it’s completely unacceptable, it’s completely out of the norm for our community and expectation that we have here at Greenville ISD.”

Wednesday morning Greenville Independent School District sent an apology letter to parents after a picture surfaced on social media of a teacher with her foot on a Black student’s neck. The student’s mother said it was a ‘joke,’ wasn’t offended, and wants the teacher to keep her job; other family members feel different.

Liggins said he learned about the photo Tuesday night during a school board meeting and immediately had someone reach out to the family to make sure the child was okay.

“Our community embraces diversity and we celebrate our differences here and we take the safety and dignity and respect of our students and staff very seriously. So to have something like this occur, although I do not have all the details for it since it’s under investigation, there’s no excuse for it," Liggins said.

The child's mother said, "It was a joke."

Wednesday evening the child's mother explained what happened and how she wishes she never showed anyone the picture.

The mother, who asked NBC 5 not to use her name, said she and her son's teacher have a very close relationship.

"I didn't think anything of it. It was 'ha, ha,' and I moved on," explained the mother. "The picture then began to bother me a little bit, showed it and my family got really upset about it."

She said her sister posted the picture on social media, and from there it's garnered many opinions.

"I kept stating, 'It's a joke you know, she's not like that, she's not a racist, she's not. You know? She doesn't have bad intent with this,'" expressed the mom to her family.

She said she understands why her family didn't find it funny, especially since Tuesday the verdict in the George Floyd murder case was announced on the same day the picture was taken.

How the picture happened

The mom said her son was supposed to return a signed paper to school. The mother said they have a joking relationship with the teacher.

The mother said the teacher told her son, "Make sure you bring this paper back or I'm going to get on to you, and your mama told me to get on to you if I need to."

The elementary student's mom said the teacher told her son, "I'm going to put my foot on your neck." She said her son laughed and said, "I bet you won't."

The mom said another student egged her child on to get on the ground, and he did.

"He laid on the ground and that's when I guess she put her foot on there. Again like I said, I don't think there was any harm intended, there was no bad intentions and regardless of what anybody says I'm going to stand on that."

Student's mom wants teacher to keep her job

The child's mother said she wasn't able to sleep Tuesday night and felt terrible about what has happened.

"I don't feel like she deserves to lose her job. She's a good person, she's a good woman, I mean everybody is going to feel the way that they feel, and I understand in today's society you can't joke like that, you can't play around like that, maybe it's just a lesson learned," explained the mom, who said the teacher has helped them out personally outside of school in the past.

"She made a mistake," said the mother

The Greenville mother kept her kids home on Wednesday out of precaution for their safety.

She said she did speak with the teacher over the phone.

"She assured me that she would never do anything to hurt me or my child, and I know that she didn't need to tell me that. Her last words to me were, 'Do me a favor, and regardless of what happens with this situation, never stray away from the fact that I love you, I love your son, and I will never do anything to hurt y'all," said the mom who said they shared tears on the phone Tuesday night.

The mother said she knows she'll get heat for thinking the picture was a joke, but said she's willing to take the heat for the elementary teacher.

"I can't go on knowing that this lady's life is being destroyed over nothing, to me. You know, it might be big to everybody else, but it was a joke between me, her and my son, and nobody knows the relationship that we have, except the three of us," she said.

The student's mother said she has reached out to the district and pleaded with them to not fire the teacher.

The district said once the investigation is complete it will be up to the superintendent to make a decision on what the next course of action is.

“Regardless of what the premise is, it’s an extremely disturbing image and the optics of it are not good at all," Liggins said.

The Greenville ISD released a statement saying:

"Earlier today, a highly upsetting picture depicting a Black student with a foot on his neck was posted and circulated on social media

Upon learning about this, we immediately contacted the family to check on the student to ensure his well-being. We will continue to be in touch with the family to be sure the student feels comfortable and safe on campus. 

Our Human Resources Department immediately contacted the employee who staged the picture.  We take this situation very seriously. It will be thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action will be taken. 

We have heard from many community members, and we understand their concern and anger.  Greenville ISD embraces diversity and believes in the importance of treating all people with respect and dignity."

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