While showing his classroom a slideshow of their recent field trip to the Bronx Zoo, a teacher included a photo of four black students. However, once parents saw the picture he used, they immediately contacted the school with accusations of “racism.”
For over two decades, a male teacher at Longwood High School in Long Island has made a positive and lasting impact on thousands of students who passed through his science class. Unfortunately, one possible misjudgment just might cost the veteran educator his reputation, if not his job.
After spending the day last month at the Bronx Zoo for a zoology class trip, the unnamed science teacher created a collage of the photo taken on the excursion. Hoping to display them in a fun and creative slideshow for his pupils, the teacher added some captions to go with the pictures. Unfortunately, not everyone found his humor amusing.
According to Newsday, a student snapped a photo of a particular picture in the slideshow, which featured 4 of the teacher’s black students posing for the camera. In the picture directly before was a gorilla in an enclosure. The first picture was captioned “Monkey See” and the second photo, which depicted the students, was captioned “Monkey Do,” in reference to the cliche.
“I found it to be racist and insensitive and I would be very uncomfortable going back to class after that happened,” said Johanne Beaubrun, 44, a nursing assistant from Middle Island whose 18-year-old son was in the picture and used his cellphone to record parts of the PowerPoint presentation.
As soon as word of the captioned photos spread, parents of the students in the aforementioned picture grew upset. It wasn’t long before the school received several angry calls concerning the teacher’s slideshow, the New York Post reports.
“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 – it was very disturbing,” says Latisha Moye, mother of one of the students in the photo. “One person said that they look like slaves.”
Understanding the growing outrage, the Longwood School District addressed the issue with a lengthy statement, News 12 Long Island reports. Officials confirmed that the superintendent met with the parents and assured them that the teacher in question was spoken with concerning the issue.
“The Longwood Central School District has been made aware of a culturally insensitive photo involving Longwood students during a class trip to the Bronx Zoo,” the statement reads. “For the past several years, the high school teacher has taken a similar photo for use in a classroom PowerPoint presentation. This particular photo 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.”
School officials added that they have reached out to the families involved in order to make amends. They hoped that the issue was resolved and that such a mistake wouldn’t happen again.
“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.”
Despite the district trying to remedy the situation, parents still weren’t satisfied. Moye reiterated that the school hasn’t done enough to alleviate the anguish the matter has caused. She and the other parents are now calling for the teacher to be suspended without pay.
“When kids make mistakes, they have to deal with the consequences,” says Moye. “He’s an adult, especially being 22 years a teacher, he should know what and what not to do, especially putting animals to a face.”
The four students depicted in the photo refused to return to science class. School officials insisted that the students would need to return to class or receive a grade of “incomplete,” parents claim.
Parents of the students involved were not satisfied with the school’s response. The students and their parents served a notice of claim that they’re planning to slap the school with a $12 million lawsuit.
Lawyer John Ray, who is representing the four 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.” Ray called the slideshow “grossly racist” and said that it “compared” the black students involved “with slides of monkeys and a gorilla.”