Black students say a teacher compared them to monkeys in front of their classmates. Now their parents are suing.

Longwood High School students.

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Longwood High School students.
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Ray, Mitev & Associates
  • Four students from Longwood High School in New York say their teacher displayed a photo of them in class with the caption “monkey do.”
  • The teenagers, aged 16 to 18, say their science teacher took the photo while on a field trip to the Bronx Zoo in November.
  • The teacher then featured the photo in a slideshow in class, which also featured a photo of a gorilla, the teens said.
  • Now their parents are preparing to sue Longwood Central School District for $12 million in damages.
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The parents of four black high school students say they plan to file a $12 million lawsuit against a New York school district after the teenagers alleged their science teacher shared a photo of them with the caption “monkey do” in front of their class.

A lawyer for the students, who attend Longwood High School on Long Island, filed a notice of claim, the first step to filing a lawsuit, on Tuesday. He later announced in a news conference that the group would sue their school district for $12 million.

The notice, which has been reviewed by Insider, said that a teacher took a photo of four black students, aged 16 to 18, standing behind one another during a field trip to the Bronx Zoo in November 2019

The notice alleges that the teacher later included the photo in a slideshow shown in class with the caption “monkey do,” alongside a photo of a gorilla. The notice alleges that the teacher “deliberately persuaded, tricked and cajoled” the students to pose for the photo.

The teens were embarrassed by the image, which led to shame, anxiety, fear, and emotional harm, according to the notice.

Khevin Beaubrun, an 18-year-old who was in the photo, said he took a photo of the slideshow and posted it on Snapchat, Newsday reported.

“I am really disappointed because I trusted my teacher,” he said. “As an educator I give him my trust to take the photo and I did not think it was going to be portrayed in that way.”

Attorney John Ray, who represents the parents and students, said the photos were “outrageously offensive.”

“This is not just a case of racism,” Ray said at the news conference. “This is a case of someone asserting racial inferiority of African American people.”

In a statement issued by the school district on Wednesday, officials called the photo “culturally insensitive” and a “lapse in 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,” district officials said.

Longwood Central School District has 9,145 students. Black and African-American students make up 18% of the student population. At Longwood High school, Black and African-American students make up 19.7% of the student population.