Elementary Principal Under Fire For 'Joking' About Black Student With Special Needs

by Cassandra Stone

She made a ‘joke’ that has many people calling for her immediate termination

Shanna Swearingen, an elementary school principal in Houston, is coming under fire for a comment she made in reference to a student with special needs.

The comment was apparently made during a staff meeting at Ponderosa Elementary School, and since the remark became public knowledge the story has been making waves among the school community.

The child in question, who is black, has reportedly been known to run from class as part of his behavioral issues. Swearingen is said to have told the staff members that the next time the child runs away, “We won’t chase him. We will call the police and tell them he has a gun so they can come faster.”

“It’s disgusting, that kind of comment is disgusting,” parent Jessica Spoonemore told KPRC news in Houston. “Even if it was a joke, how could you even recant something like that? Children are getting killed by guns, violence. That was very unnecessary and disturbing, especially for an elementary school.”

Discussion about Swearingen’s remark spread quickly among a Facebook group for parents, with many parents and others all over social media calling for her resignation or termination.

Swearingen issued an apology to the school community via a letter sent home to parents. In it, she claims the incredibly offensive comment that has absolutely no validity or place in education isn’t “reflective” of who she is or how much she cares about the students at Ponderosa.

The rest of the letter reads as follows:

“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.”

Many people simply aren’t buying her apology, for good reason — the further marginalization of people with special needs and minorities just continues a cycle of societal impairment. Not to mention any “jokes” about guns in schools (especially from an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, FFS) could not be more tone-deaf, inappropriate, and downright cruel amid the gun violence epidemic affecting students in the U.S. And is this woman somehow unaware that police disproportionately kill black people, or does she just not care?

While it’s unknown if Swearingen will face consequences for her breathtakingly callous words, the school district superintendent, Rodney Watson, says he found the remarks disturbing. He says he’s calling for in-person cultural sensitivity training this year rather than the usual annual online course for all district staff members.

“As a diverse school district serving a student population that is 46 percent Hispanic and 40 percent African-American, my top priority is ensuring the dignity, respect and safety for all our students.”