Miller Place, New York — A Long Island, New York school district will be hit with a multi-million dollar lawsuit over an allegedly racially insensitive slideshow featuring photos from a class trip to the Bronx Zoo, an attorney says. The slideshow featured a photo of four black students in the zoo, and one of a gorilla, and the label "Monkey see, monkey do."
The students and their families are crying foul over the images a science teacher used in the slideshow, CBS New York reports.
"There can't be any question about what they meant," said lawyer John Ray. "Remember, this is a zoology class. Evolution is taught."
"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 during an advanced zoology course field trip.
Just before the December break, he presented to his classes using Powerpoint.
The four students say they were humiliated when they saw themselves.
"I said they had used us like slaves," said senior Khevin Beaubrun. "I posted (a video about) it on Snapchat, social media, and (I was asked) to take it down."
Beaubrun said he was threatened and pressured by administrators to delete the video or face suspension.
"This is institutionalized racial superiority," Ray charged.
"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.
The teacher was defended as a good man who made an honest mistake and intended no malice.
"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 shown slideshows this week from years past and noticed another troubling photo.
"The lion caption. It was a 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.