Houston Principal In Trouble Over Insensitive Joke About Student
A Houston area school principal is facing disciplinary action after making a joke about a special-needs student who is also an ethnic minority.
Ponderosa Elementary School Principal Shanna Swearingen made a joke to three staff members last month about an African-American special-needs student who has a history of running out of the classroom. Swearingen reportedly joked,
We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster.
The comments were made public through a Spring, TX neighborhood Facebook page. According to Click 2 Houston, a report of the incident ran on the 10pm news broadcast for KPRC2 last Monday, and Principal Swearingen released a statement the following day,
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 Spring ISD also issued a statement about the incident,
We are aware of the situation regarding a thoughtless and insensitive comment made by the Ponderosa Elementary School principal to three staff members. As a diverse district committed to dignity and respect for all, we take this incident very seriously.
While the comment was made in jest, it was inappropriate and should never have been made.
That point has been thoroughly communicated to Ponderosa’s principal who actually self reported the incident to the district -- taking full accountability for the inappropriateness of the comment. Ponderosa’s principal has also apologized to her school community.
The district will continue to monitor the school climate at Ponderosa to ensure that incidents like this do not occur again.
Though confirmed by the school district and the principal herself, several parents found it difficult to believe what happened, including the president of the PTA, Michael Burnett,
I don’t believe that it’s fair for people to take to social media on something that is hearsay. I think the best thing would have been to come to her and ask the question.
The principal has been awesome. She broke her back during Hurricane Harvey and worked in homes of all races.
Other parents have spoken out against the principal's actions, removing their children from the school and calling for her resignation for the racial implications of her joke.
When asked for comment, the district said they cannot speak on disciplinary matters, but assured people that Swearingen has taken responsibility for her statement.