An elementary school principal in Houston is being criticized after she reportedly joked about telling police that a black special-needs student brought a gun to the school.
On April 17, Shanna Swearingen, the principal at Ponderosa Elementary School, made the joke to three staff members.
The boy has had behavioral problems and has been known to run from class, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Swearingen reportedly told the staff members that the next time that happened, “We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster.”
The comments came to light on a Facebook group dedicated to the school, angering parents.
“It’s disgusting ... That kind of comment is disgusting. Even if it was a joke, how could you even recant something like that?” parent Jessica Spoonemore told Houston TV station KPRC. “Children are getting killed [by] guns, violence ... That was very unnecessary and disturbing, especially for an elementary school.”
The guardian of the boy who was the subject of Swearingen’s joke said he was unaware of her comments until KPRC contacted him. He now has a meeting with school officials to discuss the incident.
Swearingen has not made herself available to media, but she sent a letter to school parents on Tuesday apologizing for “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.”
The Spring Independent School District sent out a statement on Monday, calling Swearingen’s comment “thoughtless and insensitive”:
“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.”
It is unknown whether Swearingen was disciplined over the matter. The district told KPRC that it takes “matters of this nature very seriously” but that it does not “discuss disciplinary action pertaining to personnel matters.”