A Long Island high school teacher was presenting a slideshow when one photo popped up, which led to an outcry by the students and their parents. The picture showed four black students visiting the Bronx Zoo. It had the caption “Monkey Do.” This infuriated students and parents alike, and they served the school with a notice of claim, and are planning to file a suit against the school.
The students in the picture were from Longwood High School, and they had taken the picture during their November 5 field trip. The four youngsters were standing one behind the other, and they had one hand placed on the head of the person in front.
One parent, Latisha Moye, told News 12 Long Island, “One person said that they look like slaves.”
She added, 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.”
John Ray, an attorney for three of the students in the picture, stated that he would file a $12 million suit against the Suffolk County school. He stated that the school “allowed white teachers” to call the students “monkeys” and that it was a “school-sponsored zoology class slideshow” that was presented before winter break.
He stated that the presentation was “grossly racist” and that it “compared [the students] with slides of monkeys and a gorilla.”
The notice of claim maintains that the school employees, including Mr. Heinrichs, a zoology teacher, “created and manipulated” the picture, including it in the slideshow between a picture of monkeys captioned, “Monkey See,” and a photo of a gorilla “thereby misusing the pidgin expression, ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ for racially discriminatory and offensive purposes.”
This slideshow was passed on to another zoology teacher in the Suffolk County school who then showed it to students on December 20, “holding claimant students up to ridicule, embarrassment and shame, anxiety, fear and emotional harm,” the claim states.
According to one of the students in the picture, he was taken to the school administrative offices, where the administrators “pressured and threatened to suspend said claimant if said claimant failed or refused to destroy his evidence of the slideshow,” the notice of claim states.
The Longwood Central School District released a statement admitting that the picture was “culturally insensitive” and “an unfortunate lapse of judgment.”
The statement read; “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.”
The school district stated that the Superintendent and High School Administration met with the teacher, community, and families involved after the winter break.
The district’s statement read; “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. Longwood is committed to providing an educational environment that is nurturing, supportive, safe, and conducive to learning.”
The district did not reveal whether the teachers involved were facing any disciplinary measures, stating that they had no further comment “due to pending litigation.”
However, Roy stated that the teachers involved were still teaching.