Supporters say newly surfaced photos clear Longwood teacher at center of scandal; lawyer disagrees

New photos have surfaced that are similar to the one at the center of a divisive controversy in the Longwood school community.
As News 12 has reported, a zoology teacher used the photo in a slideshow during class last month. It showed four African American students at the Bronx Zoo, holding each others’ heads with the caption "Monkey do." The photo was followed by a picture of a gorilla, prompting allegations of racial insensitivity.
The families of the four African-American students in the picture have filed a notice of claim, which may lead to a $12 million lawsuit against the school district.
News 12 obtained more photos like the one at the center of the notice of claim that show students of different ethnicities.
Some in the district say the new pictures prove that zoology teacher Edward Heinrichs was not mocking the African American students.
One of the newly surfaced pictures was provided to News 12 by a student who says it was taken in 2017. The student, who asked not to be identified, said students didn't think the photo was racist then.
“I feel like kids were just laughing, no one sounded offended when the picture came up,” she said. 
But she says she understands why some would say the picture with just African American students is racially insensitive.
However, John Ray, an attorney for the four African American students, says the newly unveiled photos do not clear the teacher whatsoever.
"These new photos are yet further evidence of the disgraceful, racially-provocative intentions of the white teachers and school district," Ray said in a statement. “African Americans should never be labeled as monkeys, even amongst whites. These white teachers intentionally created a show to mimic old, racially offensive depictions of evolution from monkey to white man."
According to the school district, the superintendent has spoken with all parties involved, including the teacher, the students and parents. The teacher's employment status is not being disclosed.