A San Jose, Calif., high school teacher and assistant football coach has been placed on leave—but will still be collecting a paycheck—after an incident during which he allegedly simulated a noose to intimidate the lone black student among a group of football players.
The Mercury News, citing police, reports that the Santa Teresa High School teacher was hanging out with a group of student football players on April 30 when he took an exercise rope, placed it around his neck and turned to a black student, telling the student “something to the effect of ‘stay away from me.’” The newspaper notes that several sources said the teacher meant the comment as a joke.
The student was visibly offended by the “joke,” and reported the incident to high school administration the following day. The San Jose Police Department assigned its assaults unit, which investigates potential hate crimes, to investigate what happened. The case is now sitting with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which will determine what, if any, charges will be brought to the teacher.
But the incident is only receiving national attention this week thanks to members of the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet of Silicon Valley, an organization that advocates for the black community in the region.
The Rev. Reginald Swilley, a co-chair of the group, said that the noose incident “scared the kid and crushed him.”
“Children are trying to be educated in an environment where they are being threatened,” he said. “Our community is very upset, and nobody did anything until the community spoke.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, because there was no physical contact between the student and the teacher, it’s unlikely that the district attorney will charge the teacher with a hate crime.
In addition, prosecutors were not convinced that “the student felt threatened” by the teacher, meaning that the event will likely be labeled a “hate incident”—which would bring no criminal charges.
A district superintendent told the Mercury News that the teacher’s language was “unacceptable,” adding, “That is not the type of person I want in our system.”
But at this moment, there is no indication that the district will remove the teacher from his post. He remains on paid leave, with the East Side Union High School District saying that it couldn’t comment on a pending personnel issue.