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Teen Suing NY School For Refusing To Publish George Floyd Poem

Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson
Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson Photo Credit: Google Maps street view

A New York teenager is seeking millions of dollars from a Long Island school district that refused to publish her poem regarding the murder of George Floyd a year ago.

Ruby Ray, a sophomore in the Port Jefferson School District attending Vandermeulen High School in Suffolk County, is alleging that she wrote “Derek Chauvin’s Ode to George Floyd: A Dark Sonnet’’ in late April and submitted it to her school’s literary magazine for publication, only to be turned down this week by the district.

In response, Ray, who is 16 years old, and her family filed a $2 million notice of claim against the school district claiming “white racism.”

According to reports, Ray’s byline was a familiar feature in the literary magazine, and she stated that she expected the school’s administration to be “shocked and pleased by the work,” instead it was turned down.

Matthew Sefick, an English teacher at the high school, reportedly said that he is “less inclined to include (Ray’s piece) because of the political aspect. There are certain topics that might be difficult to address in an open forum like (the literary magazine).

“I hope you understand how touchy a subject this can be,” the teacher allegedly said in an email to the student. “This is an emotionally charged piece no matter how you look at it, and emotions run deep in an audience.

“There is no back and forth discussion the way that we are having and that can be dangerous,” he allegedly added. “I need to think about how certain content will be received by all audiences involved.”

District Superintendent Jessica Schmettan declined to comment on the email, citing “pending litigation.

The notice of claim alleges that administrators at the school banned Ray’s sonnet “in order to please, protect, promote, placate and defend white racism in Respondents' school and community, and white racism in general.”

Floyd, age 46, was killed on May 25, 2020, after officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes. Last month, Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter. His sentencing is pending. 

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