New information has emerged about a viral photo of four California teachers holding up a noose, suggesting that it might be connected to a shocking child abuse case that left a boy dead and sent his father to death row.
During an emotionally charged Town Hall meeting at Summerwind Elementary School on Tuesday, a special counsel for the Palmdale School District floated a theory that the photo was taken to celebrate an anniversary of the sentencing of Gabriel Fernandez’s parents.
Gabriel was a student at Summerwind Elementary School in 2013 when he was beaten to death by his parents.
One of the teachers depicted in the infamous noose photo had daughter Gabriel in first grade.
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Was it about Gabriel? A theory has been floated that these four California teachers posed with a noose to celebrate an anniversary of the sentencing of a couple convicted of killing one of their students, Gabriel Fernandez
Jennifer Garcia, pictured far left in the noose photo, testified at the trial of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez’s parents in 2017 (pictured on the stand, left). The boy (right) was in Garcia’s class as a first-grader
The eight-year-old boy was whipped with a belt, starved, tied up, locked in a cabinet, shot with a BB gun and once had his teeth knocked out with a bat. He also had a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns all over his body.
His mother, 34-year-old Pearl Fernandez, pleaded guilty to murder in February 2018 and was sentenced in June of that year to life in prison.
Her boyfriend, Isaurio Aguirre, was convicted of murder and given the death penalty after a jury found that he intentionally tortured the boy to death because he believed he was gay.
The teacher in the maroon sweater posing on far left and pointing at the nose with a smile on her has been identified as Jennifer Garcia, who was Gabriel’s first-grade teacher and testified during his parents’ trial in 2017.
Isaurio Aguirre (left) was convicted of murder and given the death penalty for torturing Gabriel to death. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez (right), pleaded guilty to murder in February 2018 and was sentenced in June of that year to life in prison
The eight-year-old was whipped with a belt, starved, tied up, locked in a cabinet, shot with a BB gun and had his skull fractured
Garcia recounted from the stand how she first noticed bruises on the boy’s face and said that Gabriel eventually confided in her that he was being beaten at home.
The teacher repeatedly reported the abuse allegations to the county children’s services, but Gabriel continued suffering at the hands of his parents.
Emily Carranza, a cousin of Gabriel’s who has been advocating for justice for the boy through a Facebook page, sought to distance the case from the noose photo, dismissing the suggestion that the two were related.
‘Do not tie that horrible picture with my cousin,’ she told Los Angeles Times. ‘That’s not how you celebrate someone’s conviction. That noose represents everything Gabriel went through.’
Bonafacio Garcia, the school district’s lawyer, said another working theory being considered by the investigation is that the photo-op was meant as an inside joke among teachers, reported NBC Los Angeles.
Jennifer Garcia, her three colleagues seen in the now-infamous image and Linda Brandt, the principal of Summerwind Elementary School, have been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
The district’s attorney is expected to present his findings by June 1.
After the photo leaked, another emerged of a noose hanging from a wall within the school.
While some suspect the photo may be have been a ‘back-to-school necklaces’ – an insider joke among educators that suggests they want to kill themselves just thinking about returning to their job after the school break – the picture has been slammed as insensitive or outright racist by others.
The principal reportedly shared offensive images in an email sent to all teachers earlier this month and it quickly spread on social media
The older brother a student at the school explained how let him know the image is an offensive reminder of a time when slavery was prevalent among African Americans. ‘I showed her the picture of her teacher and of someone hanging from a tree,’ Randle Jr. told Yahoo Lifestyle. ‘She’s sad and shocked that her teacher would hold a torture device.’
Teacher Michele Lemaire opined a ‘lack of people of color’ teaching at Summerwind is a ‘huge issue’.
She said a third of the students there are black and another third Hispanic but there are only a few black teachers.
Teachers at Summerwind Elementary School in Palmdale were told to go home on Thursday after protests from parents
Linda Brandt, the principal of Summerwind Elementary School in Palmdale, shared the photograph in an email to all teachers earlier this month. She was placed on leave Wednesday
Parent Breyon Clemmons said that one of the teachers in the image has been the subject of racial controversy before.
Clemmons said her younger daughter is now having issues with a teacher at the school.
She told Fox 11: ‘I’ve requested that my kid be taken out of one classroom because that teacher, in particular, has shown prejudice discrimination against my kid and when I requested the black teacher I got grief for that.’
According to a teacher at the school who didn’t want to be identified, all the unidentified teachers pictured look after first grade students.
The Palmdale School District didn’t immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Clemmons let her fourth-grade daughter skip class Thursday as they held a protest.
‘I don’t want to come to school because I feel like they’re going to hurt me or do something with the noose that they’re not supposed to do,’ 10-year-old Camille Clemmons told Antelope Valley Press.
Prior to the scandal Brandt was being considered for a promotion to Palmdale School District Superintendent.
Brandt was the first to be placed on leave last Wednesday after the incident ‘involving the discovery of a noose and possibly inappropriate responses to that discovery’ were brought the attention of the district that afternoon.
‘The Principal has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the matter,’ Current Superintendent Raul Maldonodo said in a statement Thursday morning.
‘Our Palmdale Promise to our students and community is to ensure the following: EQUITY for all our students, schools, and communities as reflected in outcomes and opportunities.
‘Facilitating and supporting every student’s achievement by BUILDING ON THEIR STRENGTHS, CULTURES, LANGUAGES, and experiences to create new successes. MULTILINGUALISM and MULTICULTURALISM as individual, community, national, and global assets in the 21st century. INTEGRITY AND COMMUNITY based on trust and the common purpose that empower individuals and communities.’
As parents protested last Thursday the teachers were sent home.
‘You hate them little black babies. You hate them little Spanish babies. All them little minorities,’ Darrin Harper expressed as he spoke of his upset to Fox 11. ‘You hate them just of where they’re from. Because of the color of their skin you hate them? They’re innocent. My babies.’
The Superintendent previously said he didn’t know the context of the noose image.
The ‘incident involving the discovery of a noose and possibly inappropriate responses to that discovery’ was brought to Palmdale School District’s attention late afternoon Wednesday