‘Something… to Deal with for the Rest of Her Life’: Outraged Parents of Florida Teen Called ‘Monkey,’ ‘Cotton Picker’ By White Peers Sues School for Years of Racist Bullying

The family of a Florida teen who says she was subjected to racial discrimination — including being referred to as a “cotton picker” and “Black one” by her peers — is pursuing legal action against her high school.

The attorney representing the 11th grader called it a “widespread issue.” 

Grace Clay and her father filed the lawsuit against Babcock Neighborhood School on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Several parents of kids accused of committing the acts against the 16-year-old at the southwest Florida charter school were also listed as defendants. Attorney Joseph North told Atlanta Black Star on Friday that the adults connected to this case failed his client. 

Florida Student Says She Was Bullied, Experienced Racism At School
Gracy Clay,16, says she has been bullied and mistreated by her peers due to her race. (NBC2/Youtube screenshot)

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

Trending Today:

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

During 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 calling her racial slurs. Speaking to local news, the teen said 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 said people have been coming to his office to share their experiences. After news outlets covered Clay’s story, other students approached the 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 can not 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.

Click here to read the original story.

Back to top