- Andrea Bryan, a high school English teacher at Commack High School on New York’s Long Island, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against her school district.
- She claimed a teacher told her a table was for “whites only,” and asked her to “translate slave talk.”
- Bryan also claimed in her lawsuit that students called her “Aunt Jemima” in the cafeteria.
- She claimed that when she reported one teacher’s behaviour, she was “ostracized and made a pariah” within the school’s English department.
- The district didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
A black educator in New York claims she faced racial discrimination from her colleagues and students for years, with one teacher telling her a table was for “whites only,” and students repeatedly calling her “Aunt Jemima,” according to a racial discrimination lawsuit seen by INSIDER.
Andrea Bryan, a high school English teacher, filed a lawsuit against the Commack School District on Long Island in which she claims she has been discriminated against and harassed by teachers and students since she made a complaint about the English department’s lead teacher at Commack High School in 2015.
Bryan, identified as a black female of Caribbean decent in court documents filed on December 19 and first reported by NBC News, said she was the only black teacher in the school district for 17 years.
She alleged that Commack’s lead English teacher, a white male, made “racially derogatory comments” against her on multiple occasions.
Bryan, her lawyer, and the Commack Union Free School district didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Teachers allegedly ostracized her for making a complaint
On one occasion, when Bryan asked the teacher about peanuts on a table in the English office, he told her the food was for “whites only,” according to the lawsuit.
In another instance, when the English department was teaching the play “The Crucible,” which features a black slave from Barbados, the teacher allegedly asked Bryan to “translate slave talk” and to “‘speak’ her Barbados,” the lawsuit alleges.
Following the comments, which the lawsuit says left Bryan feeling “humiliated, degraded, and embarrassed,” she filed a complaint against the lead teacher.
The lead teacher was apparently demoted following the complaint, but Bryan claimed she was “ostracized and made a pariah” within the English department.
She claimed that other teachers ignored her questions in meetings, and hung a “racially disparaging poster depicting a Caribbean black male with dreadlocks” in the English department’s office.
On another occasion, she was gifted a bottle of hand sanitizer at a Secret Santa, where the monetary amount for gifts was set at $US50.
According to the lawsuit, Bryan “understood that she was presented with hand sanitizer because she is black and, therefore dirty in view of her colleagues.”
Students allegedly called her ‘Aunt Jemima’
Bryan also alleges that students at Commack High School, which was 86% white in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the New York State Education Department, made “racial jeers, insults and taunts” toward her.
On more than one occasion, Bryan claimed students called her “Aunt Jemima” and asked her if she “had any maple syrup.” She also alleges one white student came to school dressed as Aunt Jemima in blackface in October 2009.
Bryan has accused the Commack School District of failing to act on her complaints of alleged harassment and discrimination, causing an “atmosphere of racial harassment and intimidation.”
A spokeswoman for the district told INSIDER that she could not discuss details of the lawsuit, but said all of Bryan’s claims “have been investigated, and, to the extent appropriate, promptly addressed.”
“The District takes any allegation of discrimination seriously and, as a matter of policy and practice, acts swiftly in response to any claim,” the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman added: “We adhere to the District’s Code of Conduct which states that ‘intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived race, colour, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (identity or expression), or sex’ will not be tolerated. We remain a welcoming school community dedicated to the goal of providing an inclusive, safe and healthy environment for students and staff.”
Bryan is seeking an undetermined amount of damages. The lawsuit is ongoing.
- Read more from INSIDER:
- A hotel in Portland called the police on a black guest who was taking a phone call in the lobby
- The wrestling referee who forced a black teen to cut off his dreadlocks before a match has been banned from officiating in the district
- Fraternities and sororities at Harvard are suing the school over its crackdown on single-sex clubs
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