A teacher at a Long Island high school presented a slideshow during class that included a photo of four black students at the Bronx Zoo with the caption “Monkey Do” followed by a snap of a gorilla, reports NBC News.
The parents of the four black Longwood High School students say they are planning to file a $12 million lawsuit against the New York school district.
The photo — which was taken by a teacher during a class field trip to the zoo on Nov. 5 – shows youngsters lined up behind one another with a hand on the person’s head in front of them.
The image was included in a slideshow played during class the following month and was accompanied by the caption “Monkey do.”
According to the claim, the picture of the students was placed between two images on separate slides; one of a monkey with the caption “Monkey See” and another image of a gorilla.
“One person said that they look like slaves,” Latisha Moye, a mother of a 16-year-old boy in the snap told News 12 Long Island.
Moye added that the “whole picture and the caption was very upsetting because it was comparing our kids to a monkey or a gorilla, which, there is a history on this when it comes to black people — so it was very disturbing.”
Lawyer John Ray, who is representing three of the students, claims that the Suffolk County school “allowed white teachers” to label the students as “monkeys” in what he said was a “school-sponsored zoology class slideshow” that was made before winter recess.
Ray called the slides how “grossly racist” and said that it “compared” the black students involved “with slides of monkeys and a gorilla.”
The New York Post reports:
According to the notice of claim, school employees, including a zoology teacher, identified only as Mr. Heinrichs, “created and manipulated” the photo so that it was placed in a slideshow between a photo of monkeys with the caption, “Monkey See,” and a picture of a gorilla “thereby misusing the pidgin expression, ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ for racially discriminatory and offensive purposes.”
The slideshow was then given to another zoology teacher at the Suffolk County school and it was shown to students on Dec. 20, “holding claimant students up to ridicule, embarrassment and shame, anxiety, fear and emotional harm,” the legal document says.
One of the students in the photo was taken by school authorities to the school’s administrative offices that day where administrators “pressured and threatened to suspend said claimant if said claimant failed or refused to destroy his evidence of the slideshow,” according to the notice of claim.
The document states that the actions of the school officials “were unlawfully discriminatory” and a violation of the students’ civil rights.
The Longwood Central School District admitted that the photo was “culturally insensitive” and that it was “an unfortunate lapse of judgment.”
“Without the intent of doing so, the photo was taken without fully understanding the sensitivity or the hurt it may have caused and reminds us that we must be more aware of the feelings of our multi-cultural population.”
“We are proud of the diversity at Longwood Schools, and we will continue to provide sensitivity training to our students and staff to raise awareness of our cultural differences,” the district said. “Longwood is committed to providing an educational environment that is nurturing, supportive, safe, and conducive to learning.”