Students at elite prep school filmed in blackface, making monkey gestures

An internationally recognized preparatory school in Brooklyn, New York, has been rocked by scandal after a racist video circulated showing two white female students in blackface.

The girls, who attend Poly Prep Country Day School in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, can be seen making monkey gestures and noises while donning blackface in the video, which was obtained by the New York Daily News. Other students say they became aware of the video last week and that the school has done little to discipline the girls involved.

“It was hurtful,” said senior Jeovanna deShong-Connor, 17. “It was just one more in a string of events that made it so clear that our peers were not welcoming and that the administration did not care.”

DeShong-Connor is the co-president of a students of color organization called Umoja, which is the Swahili word for “unity.” The group staged a massive walkout at the school on Friday in light of the video’s circulation, which coincided with an assembly honoring Marthin Luther King Jr

That same day, deShong-Connor and her organization published an open letter in the school’s newspaper addressing the video and criticizing the prep school for their lack of a response.

“On January 11, 2019, members of our community were exposed to a video in which white female students were seen making monkey gestures and noises while wearing blackface,” the letter read, according to the New York Daily News. “It is a racist video and we are offended. This is not an isolated incident,” it continues.

Following the open letter, walkout and assembly, Audrius Barzdukas, the Head of School at Poly Prep, sent home a letter to parents addressing the controversy and promising to do more to create an environment of inclusion.


“Some students and faculty shed tears,” he added, discussing the group’s emotional open letter and presentation. “The letter described an atmosphere of racial intolerance and prejudice and admonished the school’s administration for not doing enough to prevent or respond to this atmosphere.”

In light of the damning video, community members say one of the students has transferred out of Poly Prep, but the remaining two involved haven’t faced any repercussions from the school.

Barzdukas vowed to rectify that and plans to meet with students of color at Poly Prep about their concerns on Wednesday.

“We will not tolerate racism in our school. We will foster a culture where we seek to understand one another and to bridge cultures,” he continued. “I promise that we will do everything possible to make positive change going forward, and I invite you all to hold us accountable.”