According to Grambling State University President Dr. Horace Judson, nobody knew about the Jena Six rally at Alma J. Brown Elementary School except the four teachers who organized it. “The principal was not aware of the rally,” Judson said in a live CNN interview on Tuesday. DeEric M. Henry, editor in chief of The Gramblinite, contacted the president’s office late Tuesday afternoon to confirm if the statement he made on CNN about the principal was still the latest information he had. Judson confirmed that it was.
“When she (the principal) returned from lunch, the activity was either starting or in progress,” Dr. Judson said.
File photos from The Gramblinite revealed that the principal was at the elementary school’s rally supporting the participants.
Pam Davidson, a junior majoring in business management, was present at the march and saw Alma J. Brown Principal Regina Gregory at the march.
“I was standing there,” said the New Orleans native. The children “started marching around the yard. They had a couple of other people (from the school) taking pictures.”
“She (the principal) said, ‘I left to go to lunch and my first graders and my kindergartners are rallying. They are so cute, look at them.’ She went over to talk to them and she waved at the children saying ‘Come on, march!”
According to Davidson, the principal did not move to stop them.
“Clearly if she saw chains, maybe something should’ve registered in her mind,” President Judson said.
GSU has placed Irene Booker, one of the teachers involved, on paid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation. According to a press release from the GSU Media Relations Office, the investigation is being spearheaded by the university.
“I think I’ve gotten through most of the information. I’m trying to finish the investigation before I leave today,” Judson said in a interview on Wednesday morning.
Dr. Sean Warner, the dean of the College of Education, which oversees the three laboratory schools on campus including Alma J. Brown, was unavailable for comment as of press time.
On Friday afternoon, The Gramblinite removed the noose photos from its Web site before the president’s office ordered the campus newspaper to remove all photos and information on Alma J. Brown’s Jena Six march. The Gramblinite reposted Monday all but the three pictures voluntarily removed by the paper’s editorial staff Friday before the administration’s order.
After being informed of the march by a fellow staff member, photo editor Terrance Stokes took the pictures that were posted on thegramblinite.com Web site. Internet reader feedback has complained of parents not granting permission to publish the photographs.
“Because the teachers were present at the time and let me continue to photograph them and the children, I felt that was enough consent,” Stokes said. “I didn’t feel it was a problem because the grandmother was the one involved with that student so I didn’t feel that the child was in danger and I understood that they were demonstrating a lynching.”
The parents were not informed by the elementary school before the Jena Six demonstration and the school did not require parents to sign permission slips for students to participate in the event.
“Parents should have been asked in this case of the Jena Six protest,” Dr. Judson said. “It is clear that poor judgment was exercised.”
The president said The Gramblinite should have practiced complete accountability in protecting the minors involved.
The Gramblinite attempted to contact Gregory, but the principal declined to comment.
Campus reactions to the playground protest range from supportive to scolding after national media attention brought several news outlets to the university campus.
“I understand and support that these lessons have to be taught,” said Dr. Nikki Brown, a GSU professor. “Not only that lynching is wrong but the historical significance. It sounds inappropriate to demonstrate the historical meaning of nooses for these children.
“This lesson was taught before by kindergarten teacher Jane Elliott. It was incredibly powerful, and this may have been Irene Booker’s intent. But that has certainly been lost in the hubbub. There are other ways to address the issue,” Dr. Brown said.
Others did not agree with Booker’s teaching methods.
“I don’t think the (lynching) demonstration was necessary,” said Dr. Lawanna Gunn-Williams, a psychology professor at GSU. “Perhaps showing a child a noose would have been sufficient if they were asking questions.”
The possibility of psychological scarring has been commented on by readers of an article on the USA Today Web site.
“I think that the only way there would be psychological scars would be if the children were not being told what was being demonstrated and if they felt like they were in some physical danger,” Dr. Gunn-Williams said.
“From all indications, it does not seem as though the children felt that they were in danger. I think the older elementary age children could grasp the concept of racism.
“The younger children, I don’t think, could fully grasp the idea of racism itself,” she said.