New Jersey Teacher Accused of Censoring Trump Clothes, Quotes in Yearbook Photos
A teacher at a New Jersey high school has been suspended from her job for editing out clothing and quotes referencing US President Donald Trump from the school yearbook.
Student Grant Berardo, a junior at Wall High School, took his yearbook photo in his blue "Make America Great Again" shirt.
In the yearbook, however, his photo was digitally altered to put him in a black, featureless t-shirt.
"It was Photoshopped," Grant told USA Today.
"I sent it to my mom and dad, just like 'You won't believe this.'
I was just overall disappointed. I like Trump, but it's history too.
Wearing that shirt memorializes the time."
He wasn't the only one censored.
Fellow student Wyatt Debrovich-Fago wore a sweater vest with a Trump campaign logo on it for his photo, which was cropped out.
His younger sister Montana Debrovich-Fago chose a Trump quote to accompany her picture: "I like thinking big. If you are going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big."
And yet when the yearbook was printed, the section where her quote should have appeared was curiously empty.
"I want to know who thought it was OK to do this," said Janet Dobrovich-Fago, the teens' mother, to CNN.
"I want the school to seek disciplinary action and to be held accountable."
School district superintendent Cheryl Dyer, who refused to name the staff member responsible for the censorship, said that the teacher had been suspended "pended further disciplinary action."
She did not elaborate on what the action would be, but the teacher in question is tenured and so cannot be easily fired.
"I don't have definitive answers to all of my questions yet, but I knew enough at this point to get board approval to take that action," Dyer said.
The most likely culprit is Susan Parsons, a tenured teacher who serves as the yearbook club's adviser, according to the high school website. She denied responsibility in a query from the New York Post.
It is also possible that the alteration was done by someone with Jostens, the company that printed the yearbooks.
In a statement released Sunday night, school board President Allison Connolly said she and the rest of the school board "found the allegations of wrongdoing disturbing and take the charge that students have had their free speech rights infringed upon very seriously."
Grant Berardo's father, Joseph, called for the school to recall the yearbooks and reissue unaltered ones, threatening legal action if they didn't.
"From my perspective, I don't understand the censorship," Berardo told USA Today. "I think it was probably politically motivated.
It was inherently offensive to somebody and they made a decision to Photoshop it — and without discussion, which is the worst part."
Berardo added that it didn't matter that it was Trump, and that it would be "equally" objectionable if students wearing Hillary Clinton paraphernalia had their pictures altered.
"What's frustrating to me is that this was the first election [my son Grant] took interest in, but what message did the school send?" he asked.