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Greenville ISD issues apology letter after 'staged photo' of teacher's foot on Black student's neck surfaces online

Greenville ISD said the teacher was placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place.

GREENVILLE, Texas — This story will be updated throughout the day as new information is released.

Greenville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins sent an apology letter to parents Tuesday after the district said it became aware of a "highly upsetting" photo that reportedly shows a teacher's foot on the neck of a Black student. 

The photo began circulating within the community after it was posted to social media, according to the school district. The boy’s family showed WFAA the photo. They say the teacher texted the picture to the boy’s mom.

The boy is a student at Lamar Elementary.

“I didn’t like it from the moment I seen it,” the boy’s dad Shamell said.  

The boy's mom is more forgiving. She said the teacher texted the picture as a joke after the teacher told her son to return an assignment or she’d put a foot on his neck. She said she thinks the teacher had no bad intentions. The boy’s mom said she’s known the teacher for years and thinks there is no evil in her heart. 

The dad disagrees.   

“I don’t really understand the whole situation, but all I know is it was never supposed to happen,” Shamell said.

WFAA reached out to the teacher involved but did not hear back.  

Greenville ISD said after it learned of the photo it immediately contacted the student's family to ensure his well-being. "We will continue to be in touch with the family to be sure the student feels comfortable and safe on campus," the letter said. 

The district said the teacher who "staged the photo" has been placed on administrative leave. The district also stated that the situation will be thoroughly investigated, and "appropriate action will be taken."  

“My initial reaction was disgust,” Greenville ISD Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said. “That is not who we are. That picture does not define our teachers, it does not define the way we treat our students and what the expectation is throughout our district.” 

Liggins said he doesn't not take the incident lightly.

“We’re a community that truly embraces and respects each other, our differences, and celebrate the many cultures that exist here," he said.

The boy’s uncle shares the frustration.  

“With what’s going on in the world right now that ain’t nothing to play about at all,” the boy’s uncle said. “Whether he agreed to do it, she asked him to do it, it don’t even matter. He’s 10. He don’t know no better. She do though.” 

The picture was taken the same day former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death.

"After a year of lots of trials and challenges due to the pandemic, to have this occur on the day that it occurred, the optics again were just not good at all regardless of the intentions were," said Liggins.  

Bystander video - viewed around the world - and multiple police body cameras captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds in the street on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods.

RELATED: 'A turning point in history': Nation reacts after Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict

This Greenville ISD investigation is just the latest racially insensitive incident that has occurred this year at school districts in North Texas. 

Last week, the Aledo Independent School District said it disciplined students for a social media group chat where the students pretended to bid on Black classmates. The group was labeled with a racial slur and the word “auction."

A parent of a student mentioned in the group confirmed a screenshot was sent to their son. District Superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn sent parents an email on April 12 saying, “There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period.”

But earlier this week, Toni Lopez, a parent of a junior in Aledo High School, found and picked up a handful of hundreds of flyers scattered along roads and school campuses advertising a fake slave auction.

“Racism is ugly and hurts everybody involved,” she said. “That hurt my heart and every time I bent down to pick it up, I wanted to scream.”

In a statement, the district said it is investigating the flyers, which also ended up in several neighborhoods.  

RELATED: Parents pack Aledo ISD meeting after racist Snapchat group and slave auction flyers

Another racist incident occurred in late March within the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District. 

Three teachers were placed on administrative leave after inappropriate language about Asian Americans was included on a social studies test, officials said.

"The words used on the test question were derogatory and hurtful," the statement partially reads. 

The incident came to light when the older sister of a sixth-grader at Blalack Middle School saw her sister taking a virtual social studies test.

“I looked over my sister’s shoulder and I saw this question that just blew me away,” said Joy Lim, a CFBISD alumni. 

Lim said her sister was uncomfortable answering the question filled with stereotypes and racism against Chinese people. She quickly snapped a photo of the inappropriate question, shared it on Twitter, and contacted the district. 

RELATED: 3 Carrollton-Farmers Branch teachers placed on leave after racist language about Asian Americans used on test, district says