Authorities at Longwood High School in Long Island are under fire after a teacher compared four black students to monkeys.
In a presentation, the unnamed teacher included a photo of the four black students taken at the Bronx Zoo with the caption “Monkey Do” followed by a snap of a gorilla, The New York Post reports.
The four students could be seen in the photo snapped in November standing behind each other with their arms on the shoulders of the person in front of them.
Enraged, the parents of the four students had planned to file a $12 million lawsuit against the school district, reports NBC News.
A mother of one of the boys, Latisha Moye, told News 12 Long Island: “One person said that they look like slaves.”
“…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,” she added.
John Ray, the lawyer representing three of the students notified that he plans on suing the school for $12 million. According to him, the Suffolk County school “allowed white teachers” to tag the students as “monkeys”.
Calling the presentation “grossly racist” Ray said it “compared” the black students involved “with slides of monkeys and a gorilla”.
According to the notice of claim, the photo 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 students felt ridiculed, embarrassed with loads of anxiety, fear and emotional harm following the showing of the racist photo in class, Ray said in the notice of claim.
One of the students in the photo, according to the notice of claim, was summoned by school authorities where he was “pressured and threatened” with suspension to force him to destroy his evidence of the slideshow.
In a statement, Michael Lonergan, superintendent of the Longwood Central School District, called the image “culturally insensitive” and was “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 multicultural population,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
This unfortunate incident follows a disturbing classroom assignment in which fifth-graders were asked to flirt with the idea of putting a price tag on slaves during a social studies class.
The question among 12 others reads: “You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves.”