Arkansas Elementary Teacher Suspended for ‘Monkeys’ Comment on Facebook

January 8, 2019 Updated: January 8, 2019

An Arkansas elementary school teacher has been suspended on full pay over a social media post describing her pupils as “monkeys” at the zoo.

With the school having a majority of black students, the post stirred allegations of racism.

The 4th grade teacher has since deleted her Facebook account, but not before screenshots were shared with the school district in Little Rock, which promptly suspended her, pending investigation.

“The monkeys to my zoo came back today,” the teacher from the Watson Elementary School allegedly wrote on Jan. 1, the day that pupils returned from the break.

“I’m tired! It’s difficult to train monkeys again,” she added.

The Little Rock School District said in a statement on Jan. 4, “The Little Rock School District takes these matters very seriously and as soon as we were made aware of the incident last night, the District immediately began taking appropriate action, per LRSD protocol.”

The statement, reported by Fox, went on to say, “The employee has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a thorough investigation. Because it is a personnel matter, we are unable to provide additional comments. ”

Monkey teacher
A screenshot of a Facebook post that allegedly sparked the suspension of a teacher at Watson Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas, posted on Jan. 3, 2019. (Facebook)

Although used by many parents and adults as a playful reference to children, the word “monkeys” was used in the past as a term pejorative term for African Americans.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, over 63 percent of the students in that school were African American last year. Only 1.5 percent were white, and over 34 percent were Hispanic.

Locals, like many of the social media comments, are divided as to whether the teacher may have been inadvertently using the word innocently, ignorantly, or being deliberately racist.

‘That’s What Monkeys Do’

“Kids are kids. They’re not animals. Monkeys? My god, that’s ridiculous,” Southwest Little Rock resident Christopher Easley told KATV, adding, “I didn’t think that type of thing still went on today.”

“This is 2019. That kind of stuff I heard back in the 60s and 50s.”

One local woman, who does not does not have children of her own at the school, started a four-day protest outside the school, demanding that the teacher lose her job.

“I called Watson Elementary this morning as a concerned parent and stated how livid I am that this teacher was allowed to be hired. I also told her I feel like our students are at risk being taught by a racist teacher,” she wrote on Facebook.

But like many social media commentators, Chanquella Brown, a parent at Watson Elementary doesn’t think the teacher was being racist.

Brown told the KATV that it’s common for her to call her own children monkeys: “Look at my little monkeys over there on the playground. They’re climbing. That’s what monkeys do, they climb. They fool around, they laugh.”

“You never know. If you weren’t there to see what was going on in the classroom … you can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Brown.

As long as her children are are physically safe, Brown said it doesn’t matter what names they are called.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey