NYC principal allegedly referred to black teacher as 'gorilla'

A controversial Queens high school principal has been accused of making racially charged comments about several teachers in her building.

Teachers and activists protested outside the New York City Department of Education on Monday in support of the African-American teachers who were recently fired from their jobs at Pan American International High School Elmhurst, reports CBS New York.

The schools principal, Minerva Zanca, allegedly called the teachers “gorillas,” “big-lipped,” and “nappy headed” during meetings with an assistant principal.

The teachers, John Flanagan and Heather Hightower, filed complaints with the D.O.E.’s Office of Equal Opportunity, claiming their poor performance ratings were racially motivated, according to WNYC.

Flanagan was a Spanish teacher at the school, and Hightower taught English as a Second Language science.

Anthony Riccardo, the school’s assistant principal, said Zanca “ruthlessly targeted” Flanagan and Hightower.

Following a December observation of Hightower, Zanca allegedly told Riccardo the teacher “looked like a gorilla in a sweater.”

And after a  meeting with Flanagan, the principal allegedly asked Riccardo if he saw “his big lips quivering?”

Lisa-Erica James, a fellow African-American teacher at the high school, has quit after Zanca shut down the theater program she ran.

With the three teachers gone, there are no more black teachers on the school’s faculty.

A petition was started on, calling on Chancellor of the D.O.E. Dennis Walcott for the termination of Principal Zanca.

As of this afternoon, the online petition has 1,182 signatures.

theGrio has reached out to Pan American International High School Elmhurst and is awaiting response.

Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals