A controversial photo showing teachers and school employees posing with a noose was at the center of a meeting with the school district in Palmdale Tuesday night, with the strong turnout requiring attendees to stand.
The school district said it is investigating and has placed four teachers on administrative leave after the photo surfaced showing the group smiling as one held a small noose in a classroom at Summerwind Elementary School.
"Who's doing the investigation? We don't even know that," a parent said at Tuesday night's meeting.
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"I have never felt so uncomfortable bringing my child to school before in my life," Carla Jackson, a parent, said. "I don't know who to trust."
Some were disturbed that one of the four in the photo is Jennifer Garcia, who had become a hero by testifying for the prosecution against the abusers of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who was tortured by his mother and her boyfriend, suggested that the noose was meant to symbolize the death sentence for the boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre.
Garcia testified at the trial, recounting how she had reported the signs of abuse she witnessed and had sought to get county children's services to protect Gabriel.
Her testimony helped the prosecution get convictions for the boy's mother, Pearl Fernandez and a death sentence for Aguirre.
"It has nothing to do with Gabriel. His case, his trial was over last year when Pearl and Isauro were convicted," Gabriel's counsin, Emily Carranza, said in response.
Carranza did not accept the theory about the noose symbolizing Aguirre's death sentence.
The school district lawyer offered a different theory for the controversial photo as he urged patience at Tuesday night's meeting.
"This was just an expression of 'hang in there' if you will. We're getting close to summer," Bonafacio Garcia, the district's lawyer said.
Superintendent Raul Madonado shared many of the parent's reaction to the photo while also saying that an investigation is underway, "I was shocked and appalled. I was amazed. Of course, I was angry looking at the picture."