Teacher compares student to 'monkey smoking cigarettes,' officials say

Belleview Middle School teacher reprimanded for comment

BELLEVIEW, Fla. – A Belleview Middle School teacher was reprimanded after she compared a student to a monkey smoking cigarettes last month, according to documents from Marion County Public Schools.

Teacher Kayraless Neveau wrote in a signed statement explaining the incident that on Feb. 26, she was watching students in a neighboring classroom while that class's teacher used the restroom. 

Neveau wrote that she joked to the students that she would be their substitute teacher for the rest of the year, to which some students acted happy and some had no reaction.

She then told the students that she was just kidding and their teacher would be back in just a few minutes, according to the report. One student clapped his hands as if he was happy that Neveau would not be his teacher.

"You know what you just reminded me of by clapping like that? There was a commercial about smoking cigarettes," Neveau began telling the student, according to the statement.

The student interrupted, saying, "Oh, so now you're saying that I smoke cigarettes?"

Neveau said she replied by telling the student that she was not implying that he smokes cigarettes.

"So, there was a monkey sitting (at a) bar with a pack of cigarettes and was clapping the pack of cigarettes like you just did to me," the statement read.

The student said he took the comment to mean that Neveau was comparing him to a monkey, according to the report.

"I sincerely apologize foe what was said and how (the student) took it. It was never my intention to call (the student) anything derogatory," Neveau wrote.

Belleview Middle School principal Dion Gary issued an oral reprimand to Neveau the day after the incident. Gary called Neveau's comment "unprofessional" and "inappropriate."

Ebony Hampton is the step-mother of that 15-year-old student. 

"I was shocked," she said. "It's a lot it's a lot to deal with, especially going to school and a teacher is telling your child, basically it's OK for a teacher to tell your child that." 

Hampton believes Neveau wasn't punished enough. 

"I feel like suspension or something," she said. "They feel like she's a good teacher so nothing should be done." 

An official from Marion County Public Schools said Neveau has been with the district since 2016 and has no other disciplinary incidents in her personnel file.

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