Noose photo displayed in New York classroom draws action from school district

"All we’re asking is after a thorough investigation, that whoever is involved in this racist image be fired," said a local pastor.

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By Janelle Griffith

A school district on Long Island, New York, says it has taken "appropriate action" against teachers at a middle school for the display of "racially offensive images" featuring nooses in a classroom that has prompted a call from community leaders for their termination.

A photo, part of a larger collage on display in a classroom, showed two nooses under the term "back to school necklaces." The words "ha" and "#yes" also appear in the photo.

The Roosevelt School District said in a statement this weekend that it is aware of the "inappropriate conduct" of an "isolated group of teachers" at Roosevelt Middle School.

"The Board of Education was made aware of this incident on Thursday Feb. 7, 2019," the district said. "An investigation was immediately initiated, and appropriate action taken."

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A photo displayed inside a classroom shows two nooses labeled "back to school necklaces" at Roosevelt Middle School in New York on Feb. 7, 2019.Courtesy of Arthur L. Mackey Jr.

Arthur Mackey Jr., a pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt, shared the photo on Facebook on Saturday. He said a teacher of color who works at the middle school — and did not want to be named publicly — shared the photo with him.

"Once that was brought to my attention and I saw the picture, we knew that we had to stand up and inform the public," Mackey told NBC News on Sunday. "All we’re asking is after a thorough investigation, that whoever is involved in this racist image be fired."

Mackey said he confirmed the photo's authenticity with other teachers at the school before contacting administrators this weekend.

The district said in its statement that it has "zero tolerance for the display of racially offensive images," adding that it is unable to comment further "as this is a personnel matter."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen on Sunday said teachers should be held to a higher standard and the district should “immediately dismiss” whoever was responsible for the display.

"A clear message needs to be sent that there is simply no place in our schools and in our society for this type of racist, hateful and insensitive imagery,” Gillen said.

As of the 2017-2018 school year, Roosevelt Middle School has a student body that is 55 percent Hispanic or Latino and about 45 percent black or African-American, according to the New York State Education Department.

Mackey, a lifelong Roosevelt resident, said the Roosevelt school system was under state control from 2002 to 2013. It was the first district in New York to be taken over by the state. It was removed from the state department's list of "struggling" schools in 2016.

"We’ve come such a long way with their grades," Mackey said. "For a teacher to do this is a humiliating situation."