MILLER PLACE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A class trip to the Bronx Zoo has resulted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit lodged against a Long Island school.
A teacher is being accused of being racially insensitive, using a photo of a gorilla and four black students and an insensitive caption.
“There can’t be any question about what they meant,” said attorney John Ray. “Remember, this is a zoology class, evolution is taught.”
The parents of four black high school students are filing a federal lawsuit against the Longwood School District in Suffolk County after a science teacher created a slideshow that included a picture of a gorilla with an image of the four teens with a “monkey see, monkey do” caption.
“I didn’t know that they were going to put in that perspective and show us, compare us to monkeys,” said Longwood High School junior Gykye Murray.
The teacher took the pictures at the Bronx Zoo during an advanced zoology course field trip. Just before December break he presented it in a Powerpoint to his classes. The four students say they were humiliated when they saw themselves.
“I said they had used us like slaves,” said Longwood High School senior Khevin Beaubrun. “I posted it on Snapchat, social media, and he asked me to take it down.”
He says he was threatened and pressured by administrators to delete the video or face suspension.
“This is institutionalized racial superiority,” said Ray.
“Us African-Americans have been through this already, and it’s coming back again,” said junior Desmond Dent, Jr. “Us being compared to monkeys, and I don’t think we should be compared to any animal.”
Longwood administrators say the zoo field trip and slideshow have been going on for a decade with all races of students posing for “monkey see” photos. The district now calls it culturally insensitive, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
The teacher was defended as a good man who made an honest mistake with no malice intended.
“We are going to be asking for at least $12 million,” Ray said.
“My temperature went up. Hair on the back of my neck stood up. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ This is an educator?” said Butch Murray, grandfather of one of the students.
The parents said they were show slideshows this week of years past and noticed another troubling photo.
“The lion caption. Picture of a lion and then three black young ladies. Then it said ‘Not all animals are cute,'” said Desmond Dent, Sr., father of one of the students.
School officials and the teacher hope to meet with the parents and students. The four teens have been encouraged not to return to science class since the incident.