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Greenville Teacher Suspended For Taking, Sharing Controversial Photo

Greenville school officials have suspended a Lamar Elementary School teacher after circulation of a photo that showed the teacher placing a foot on an African-American student’s neck.

Dallas-based WFAA-TV reports the photo was staged as a joke between the teacher and the student’s parents. The teacher texted the image to the student’s mother, after telling the student that if he didn’t return a document she would put a foot on his neck, according to WFAA. The mother told WFAA that she has known the teacher for years and they have a good relationship.

No other identifying information about the teacher or the student have been made public. Greenville Independent School District staff became aware of the photo late Tuesday. A statement from the district said school officials checked on the student’s well-being, began an investigation of the incident, and suspended the teacher Wednesday.

“We take this situation very seriously. It will be thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action will be taken,” Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said in an email that went out to parents of Greenville ISD students. “We have heard from many community members, and we understand their concern and anger.”

The photo was taken on Tuesday, the same day the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial was announced in Minneapolis. The former Minneapolis police officer was convicted of murder for killing George Floyd, an African-American man, by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck during an arrest. The killing, along with other killings of African-Americans by U.S. police, inspired months of protests in 2020.

Dallas-based KXAS-TV reports the mother of the student, who did not want the television station to use her name, said her son was supposed to return a signed paper to school. 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."

KXAS reported student’s mother 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 mother said another student urged her son on to get on the ground, and he did, KXAS reported.

The mother and teacher shared a tearful conversation Tuesday night, KXAS said.

"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," the mother told KXAS. She told the TV station she has reached out to the district and pleaded with them to not fire the teacher.

The district said once the investigation is complete, the superintendent will choose the next course of action.