Yesterday (June 2), Shemekia Ellis expressed her outrage to NBC affiliate WMC after her Black son was given a “monkey award” by his preschool teacher.
“We wasn’t happy about it,” the boy’s mother told the news outlet. “I’m still not happy about it. I’m angry because I don’t understand why my son got the monkey award when he received an award that he had completed Pre-K.”
Ellis’ son Braylen is a student at Batesville Elementary School in Mississippi. Officials from the South Panola School District said the child’s teacher was unaware of the racist history associated with Black people and monkeys.
“[Braylen] was excited about the award, but he had no idea what he was holding,” she added. “So, you know, it’s unacceptable to me.”
According to the mother, after sending multiple emails to the school informing them of her concerns, she was able to arrange a meeting with the school district superintendent and Batesville Elementary School Principal Amy Sutton.
Officials reportedly told Ellis that Braylen’s monkey award was given to him during a ceremony because of his “energy.”
“She stated that the teacher stated that she gave him the award for his energy,” the concerned parent said. “But the award doesn’t say anything about energy, it says ‘entertainment.'”
Ellis described the certificate as having a cartoon monkey and said her son was recognized “for keeping others entertained.”
Sources add that school officials “had a meeting before the ceremony cautioning them to be sensitive about the awards given to students.” Although staff promised to be cafeful about similar incidents in the future, Ellis had still not received an apology.
“These teachers have messed up. They was wrong. The superintendent knew they was wrong, the principal knew they was wrong. So, they need to be held accountable for what they have done,” she said.