Joel Mungo: High school teacher to SUE 10th grade white student for leaving banana in his doorway
Joel Mungo, a Black Virginia high school history teacher, plans to sue a white tenth-grade student after the teen was caught leaving a banana in the doorway of his classroom for months. Mungo, who has worked at Menchville High School for 21 years, revealed that he noticed a banana placed in his classroom doorway in October 2021.
The history teacher added that it became a reoccurring incident as the banana was placed in the same spot near the doorway at least once a month. Mungo, who is one of the few black teachers at the predominately white high school, did not want to tolerate it anymore after six instances. "Someone left a banana at my door. The banana was perfectly placed in the doorway. It was clearly a deliberate act," Mungo told Wavy-10. Bananas are used and weaponized by racists to compare black people to monkeys.
Mungo reported the act to Menchville administrators, who then pulled up footage and found the student responsible, a 10th-grade student whom Mungo used to teach. "I gave the student a chance to come clean. I asked him, 'Hey did you do this?' He said 'No,' he played dumb, 'No idea what you're talking about.' So I said 'Okay, go down to the assistant principal.' I'm the only Black teacher he has. He has six other teachers. No other teachers were involved," Mungo revealed.
After the student's parents were contacted, he was placed on a two-day suspension and removed from Mungo's class. "Initially, when the parents were contacted, the parents seemed to be truly embarrassed. Then when the student was suspended and the parents were informed, then the parents were irate. It's 2022. Just to have some type of hate crime is absolutely ridiculous. I was sickened. I was highly upset. So upset, I took the next day off. I didn't go to work that Friday," recalled Mungo.
The teacher has now decided to pursue legal action against the racist act. "I'm just fed up with the racism around, especially at our academic institutions. Coming from the HBCUs and other colleges, the bomb threats, the nooses, the bananas and now it’s streaming into public education. It's time to take a stand and just let people know it will not be tolerated. I know I'm not tolerating it. You have to speak up. You can't allow it to go on because then it will just continue to go on." Mungo explained.
Attorney Ali Shahrestani, who has practiced education law in several states, told Newsweek, "It might be the case that the teacher needed to take matters to court to make a bigger point here because the school issued a meager two-day suspension for an arguable hate crime and an act of malicious and racist harassment against an African American teacher in a predominantly white public school."
"The 10th-grade student is arguably old enough to know better, and a more appropriate punishment should have been immediate expulsion, especially when the school possesses video evidence of the student's illegal actions. If I were counsel in the matter, I would advise the teacher to consider a lawsuit against the school for supporting a hostile work environment via its negligent failure to dole out a reasonable punishment. A two-day suspension is what a student should expect when he cheats on a test or gravely insults another student," he added.
"It sends a terrible message to other students, teachers, and the community when a student gets a slap on the wrist like this for such a disgusting series of alleged actions against a teacher. The fact that the student's parents allegedly had the audacity to be upset by a two-day suspension might reflect the lack of sincerity of their initial alleged apology on his behalf," said Shahrestani.