Teen plans to sue LI school district for refusing to publish her George Floyd poem

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A Long Island teen plans to sue her predominantly white school district for $2 million — for refusing to publish her poem about the police-custody death of George Floyd in its literary magazine.

Administrators at Port Jefferson’s Vandermuelen High School in Suffolk County banned 10th grader Ruby Ray’s sonnet “in order to please, protect, promote, placate and defend white racism in Respondents’ school and community, and white racism in general,” alleges the notice of claim filed Tuesday by her family, who are white.

“It’s just racist — that’s the only thing driving it,’’ Ruby’s lawyer dad, John Ray, told The Post of the school’s move to block his 16-year-old’s work, “Derek Chauvin’s Ode to George Floyd: A Dark Sonnet.”

“It’s a powerful poem,” the father added of the sonnet. “It says what has to be said.”

Ruby’s poem starts out, “From Momma’s hands, you had not any chance.

“The street, the ‘hood made you so young ashamed

“To stand tall, to control your circumstance.

“’Black man, it’s you we’ll crack,’ white men proclaimed.’’

Her sonnet adds, “I bring justice here, pressed upon your neck.

“If I decide, you now face certain death,

“A fate deserved, ‘cuz you passed a bad check.

“You can’t breath? Then cease your black man drama,

“I will make you weep for ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ ”

Ruby, whose work has been previously featured in the school’s magazine The Mast, submitted the sonnet for publication but learned it had been refused May 19, according to her father and the notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit.

Her family claims that school officials wrote to Ruby saying that while the work was written well, it was not “appropriate” for publication.

“I agree that your sonnet is well-written,” they wrote, according to the family. “I hope you understand how touchy of a subject this can be… (it) can be dangerous… not only is the student body reading the work but the faculty and staff as well … I do not believe this piece is appropriate.”

The school’s principal, who is named in the suit, did not immediately respond to an e-mail or phone message from The Post seeking comment.

The notice of claim — which targets the district, principal and the magazine’s faculty adviser — asserts that the defendants believe the “white community would be offended and would act oppositionally to the sonnet which portrayed Derek Chauvin as a white racist.”

The school “refused to allow the sonnet to be published for the reason that it would create adverse emotional reactions and strife in the community, amongst students and faculty,” says the document, filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court.

It notes that the racial makeup of the district and community is 79 percent white and 1 percent or less black.

The document argues that Ruby’s First Amendment right to free speech is being violated.

She also is being discriminated against “on the basis of race and color, because Respondents regarded the Claimant as a writer and student who identified with and promoted the cause of African-Americans,” the papers say.

Ray said the fact that the notice of claim is being filed on the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd was “sheer coincidence.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, a then-Minneapolis cop, fatally kneeled on his neck for more than 9 minutes during what should have been a routine bust over a counterfeit $20 bill.

The horrific incident, caught on videotape, sparked widespread local, national and even global protests.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the case in April and could face up to 40 years behind bars.

Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan

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