White Syracuse school guard’s ‘joke’ gets black student to assume the position, mom says
Twelve-year-old Brandon Pearson, who has Down syndrome, was excited to start the school year Tuesday, his first day at a new school.
But he and his family were welcomed to the building with a racist joke from a Syracuse school employee, his mother said.
The incident led school officials to suspend the employee while they investigate her complaint.
Brandon was accompanied on his first day at Huntington K-8 School in Eastwood by his mother, Brandiss Pearson, her husband and her father.
When they stopped in front of a hallway mural to snap pictures, a school sentry, or security guard, who is white, inserted himself. Brandon and his family are black.
"Wait, wait, wait, hold on,” Brandiss Pearson recalls the sentry saying. Then the sentry turned Brandon to face the wall and lifted Brandon’s hands above his head on the wall, as if to be frisked, she said.
"And he starts laughing and says, ‘Now take the picture, he’s in the right position,’ ” Pearson recalled.
The insinuation went over Brandon’s head. He kept smiling. But his family members were stunned, Pearson said. They hurried Brandon off to his classroom to meet his teacher and say their goodbyes. Only after she got home did Pearson stop to process what had happened.
"I was shaking, just like fire-breathing mad,” she said. ”All he saw was a little black boy who needed to assume the position.”
Pearson is a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital Heath Center. She is studying for a master’s degree at Upstate University. She’s on the board of directors for Home HeadQuarters.
"Nothing that I’ve accomplished can change what some people see,” she said.
Pearson’s father snapped a picture of Brandon in the offensive position, but later deleted it from his phone because it made him angry. “He said he did not want to relive that moment one more second,” Pearson said.
Pearson reported the incident to Huntington’s principal Tuesday afternoon. She tearfully confronted the security guard, or school sentry, Wednesday when she saw him in the hallway. He responded that he thought it was “a funny joke,” she said.
School administrators put the sentry on leave Wednesday while they look into the incident, said Michael Henesey, coordinator of communications for the school district. Henesey declined to identify the sentry. Pearson said she did not know the sentry’s full name.
"We are in receipt of the complaint filed against one of our school sentries,” Henesey said in a prepared statement. "The school district has begun an internal investigation into the alleged complaint. The school sentry in question has been placed on administrative leave while the district conducts the investigation. We will not be releasing any more information at this time." [h/t]