Long Island

‘Monkey See, Monkey Do': NY Teachers Accused of Racism for Picture of Students at Zoo

Two teachers followed a photo of a gorilla with a picture of black students that were captioned "Monkey See" and "Monkey Do" in a class slideshow

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What to Know

  • Parents and students are planning a $12M lawsuit after teachers made what they say is a derogatory comment about black students
  • The Long Island teachers used a photo of a gorilla followed by a picture of 4 African American students with captions "Monkey See" and "Monkey Do"
  • One of the students alleges the school district threatened him with suspension if he didn’t get rid of a social media post of the slide show

Parents and students at a Long Island high school are outraged after teachers made what they say is a racist and derogatory comment regarding African Americans during a class presentation.

During a trip to the Bronx Zoo, four black Longwood High School students posed for a photo. Weeks later, that photo appeared in a slide show in a zoology class after a photo of a gorilla at the zoo — along with the captions “Monkey See” and “Monkey Do.”

The students and parents announced plans to file a $12 million federal lawsuit against the school district alleging civil rights violations. They want the two teachers responsible for the slide show to be suspended immediately, and eventually fired.

“How could an educator put together a video like that, tasteless as it is and show that in class?” asked Butch Murray, the grandfather of one of the students featured in the photo. Another angry parent echoed his sentiments, saying “This is not a joke.  It's not funny to compare our children to animals.”

Kevin Beaubrun, one of the students seen in the photograph, said he felt “utterly disturbed and humiliated” after seeing his photo used in the slide.

“What was done here was a willful, intentional attempt to assert racial inferiority of black people,” said John Ray, the lawyer for the students and families.

Beaubrun also says school officials threatened to suspend him if he didn’t get rid of a social media post using his video of the slide show.

“They were just trying to bury this, trying to cover it,” he said. “I just didn't want to let this go … We want justice. All of us.”

In a statement, Longwood Schools Superintendent Michael Lonergan called the photo “an unfortunate lapse of judgment … that reminds us we must be more aware of the feelings of our multi-cultural population.”

The district did not respond to Beaubrun’s allegation that they tried to get rid of the photo, and had no comment on the plans for the lawsuit in general.

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