Teacher's lawsuit alleges students called her 'Aunt Jemima' and said food was for 'whites only'

Elise Solé
Andrea Bryan, a teacher at Commack High School in Long Island, N.Y. is suing her school district for ignoring the racial discrimination she has allegedly endured. (Photo: Getty Images)
Andrea Bryan, a teacher at Commack High School in Long Island, N.Y. is suing her school district for ignoring the racial discrimination she has allegedly endured. (Photo: Getty Images)

A high school teacher is suing her school district for making her a “pariah” after she complained that another teacher made racist comments.

English teacher Andrea Bryan, reportedly the only black teacher at Commack High School in Long Island, N.Y. for 17 years, says in her December 19th lawsuit that she “has been discriminated against and harassed by teachers and students” since reporting a white male teacher for racial harassment, according to NBC News.

As reported by NBC News, Bryan alleges that the lead teacher harassed her with “racial derogatory” statements. Bryan once asked him about a bag of peanuts lying on a table in the English office and he responded that it was “for whites only,” says the lawsuit, according to NBC News.

In another example from 2015, the teacher talked about the Arthur Miller play The Crucible and its black slave character. “Andrea, can you translate slave talk for me?” he allegedly asked Bryan. After feeling “humiliated, degraded and embarrassed” by the latest remark, Bryan filed a complaint against the teacher, which resulted in his demotion.

Since then, according to the lawsuit, Bryan “was ostracized and made a pariah within the department” and denied a prestigious classroom, “a privilege that had been afforded many white junior teachers,” reported NBC News.

According to Newsweek, Bryan’s coworkers also ignored her after she was in a 2017 car accident. And during a Secret Santa school event with a $50 limit, she was given a cheap bottle of hand sanitizer because her coworkers thought she was “dirty.”

Students also joined in on the harassment. Bryan says in 2016, a student yelled in her direction, “Do you remember Aunt Jemima?” and others said, “There goes Aunt Jemima!” and “Do you have any maple syrup?”

Bryan says the school didn’t take her complaints seriously, reported Newsweek. The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Federal Court and Bryan is seeking unspecified damages. 

A spokesperson for the Commack School District sent Yahoo Lifestyle a statement:

“The District takes any allegation of discrimination seriously and, as a matter of policy and practice, acts swiftly in response to any claim. Due to privacy requirements, the District cannot discuss the details of Ms. Bryan’s claims. We can say that all of them have been investigated and, to the extent appropriate, promptly addressed.”

Bryan did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

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