Parents of Florida Teen Called ‘Monkey,’ ‘Cotton Picker’ By White Peers Sues School

by Gee NY

The family of a Florida teenage girl who claim their daughter has endured racial discrimination are seeking legal action against her high school.

The Black teen has been subjected to racial slurs like “cotton picker” and “Black one” by her fellow students, in what the attorney representing the 11th-grade student has characterized the issue as widespread.

Grace Clay and her father filed a lawsuit against Babcock Neighborhood School on October 11.

Additionally, several parents of children accused of engaging in these discriminatory acts against the 16-year-old student at the southwest Florida charter school were also named as defendants.

Attorney Joseph North told Atlanta Black Star that the adults connected to this case had failed his client.

“Based on what we already know, Babcock administrators, its owner, its teachers, and coaches, as well as a number of parents, failed,” he added.

North added:

“They failed their parental duties; they failed their educational duties and their duties of decency. And that is the epitome of negligence, which is why I describe what happened at Babcock Neighborhood School as just a culture of chaos and hatred.”

The lawsuit alleges that during the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years, Clay was subjected to racial discrimination, false imprisonment, assault, and bullying. It claims she was singled out and subjected to racial slurs, including the N-word and “monkey,” by other students at Babcock High School in Babcock Ranch, Florida.

In one instance in August 2023, Clay was on an overnight trip with the volleyball team, and according to the lawsuit, her teammates “restrained” her in the room while using racial slurs. The teen described how she sat in the corner and “took it” while her peers struck her with pillows. The incident was captured on video.

“When you talk about someone who’s of that age, that’s something that she’s going to have to deal with for the rest of her life,” North said. “And so not only was she robbed of just a normal and healthy, high school, and athletic experience, but she was actually set backward [and] has trauma that now she will have to work to reverse going forward.”

North mentioned that people have been coming to his office to share their experiences. After news outlets covered Clay’s story, other students approached local NAACP chapter officials.

“When you talk about racism, so many times people speak of it as an insidious disease because it’s typically rearing its ugly head behind closed doors or through secret communications,” North continued. “But at Babcock, it was an open view in plain sight. And so I think that’s one of the reasons this case is so jarring. And I think this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

The family is seeking damages that “will be in great excess of the jurisdictional threshold of 50,000” for Clay’s mental, emotional, and physical injuries, according to the attorney. The teen is currently still attending school.

A representative of Babcock Schools declined to comment on pending litigation but said in a statement to Atlanta Black Star:
“While Florida law does not permit the school to discuss the details of the students or disciplinary actions taken, I can confirm that the school followed protocol, investigated the matter, and asked local law enforcement to investigate.

“The language used and the behavior exhibited in the video is intolerable. The school’s policy is that the Administration take immediate action when complaints are brought to their attention,” the statement says.

“To maintain student privacy, as Florida law requires, the school cannot discuss the details of any disciplinary actions. However, disciplinary protocols were followed.”

According to the spokesperson, the school plans to communicate with the local NAACP to address the community’s concerns.

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