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Chicago school district investigating after teacher hung stuffed Black doll on a string from a projector screen

<i>Scott Olson/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>
Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images/FILE

By Caroll Alvarado and Rebekah Riess, CNN

An investigation is underway at Chicago Public Schools after a teacher hung a small stuffed Black football player doll on a string from a projector screen in their classroom, according to a letter sent to parents by the school’s principal and obtained by CNN.

The March 29 letter from Joyce D. Kenner, principal of Whitney Young Magnet High School, says the teacher “indicated” he had come across the doll in his room and “wanted the students to see if someone would claim it.” The letter went on to say that “a colleague approached the teacher about the doll and the conversation between the two became contentious.

“Our administrative team investigated the incident and spoke with the teachers,” Kenner’s letter said. “An official incident report has been created and filed with CPS.”

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) strives to foster safe and secure learning environments for our students, families, and colleagues. Our schools and the District investigate and address all complaints and allegations of wrongdoing in accordance with District policies and procedures,” CPS said in a statement to CNN.

The district said the teacher who hung the doll is suspended while the investigation is ongoing. CPS has not identified the teacher.

According to Kenner’s letter, school administrators also met with a group of students Tuesday morning to discuss the incident.

“We gave students an opportunity to voice any concerns and recommendations they had. We plan to follow the disciplinary protocol established by Chicago Public Schools,” the letter said.

Kimberley Henderson, whose daughter is a sophomore and one of three Black students in the teacher’s US history class at Whitney Young, spoke to CNN.

“When I saw the picture, that’s when I went over the edge. That was unbelievable to me,” Henderson said, referencing an image of the stuffed doll circulating on the internet. “I don’t believe that he should be in front of any children, but I want to make sure that he’s not in front of mine.”

The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement about the incident that “practices that mitigate the harm of racial biases must be ongoing, and consistent” in the city’s schools.

“Mayor (Lori) Lightfoot has a responsibility to provide a safe space for every member of our school communities, which is especially important in a district that serves a student population that is 90 percent Black and Brown children,” the statement read. “Any definition of ‘safety’ must include creating and reinforcing an environment of equity and inclusion for all students, staff and faculty of color.”

CNN reached out to the mayor’s office Thursday for response to the union statement.

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CNN’s Andy Rose and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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