A New Jersey teacher has been suspended and may be fired after two students reported their Trump shirts and a third student’s Trump quote had been censored in the school yearbook.
Wall Township Superintendent Cheryl Dyer told USA Today Monday a teacher had been suspended “pending further disciplinary action,” in connection to the censorship.
Dyer did not name the teacher, but USA Today and the New York Post identified Susan Parsons as Wall High School’s yearbook sponsor and the suspended teacher.
Three students accuse Wall High of censoring photographs and a quote supportive of President Donald Trump.
The story gained national attention when junior Grant Berardo received his yearbook and found his portrait had been altered. His navy blue “Make America Great Again” Trump campaign shirt from the campaign had been digitally altered into a plain black shirt.
He went public, and the outrage went national.
Two other students also report their yearbook entries had been altered to remove Trump references.
Wyatt Debrovich-Fago’s portrait had been altered to remove a Trump logo from his sweater.
His sister Montana is freshman class president, which means she gets to pick a quote to appear next to her portrait. She picked Trump’s statement “I like thinking big. If you are going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”
Her quote was removed.
Neither the shirts or the quote violate any of the school’s dress or conduct codes. In the past students were allowed to wear Obama shirts for the yearbook.
On Parsons’ class homepage she lists “photo editing” as a skill she teaches.
“We have never made any action against any political party,” Parsons weirdly told the Post.
When asked if she knew who altered the photos, Parsons snapped “I’m going to hang up” and ended the call.
The Wall School Board may now fire Parsons.
“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 of Parsons’ suspension.
School Board President Allison Connolly issued a statement that the Board “found the allegations of wrongdoing disturbing and take the charge that students have had their free speech rights infringed upon very seriously.”
With 15 years of experience, Parsons makes $87,950 a year and would need to have tenure charges filed against her in order to be fired, USA Today reports.
That appears to be what outraged parents want.
“I want to know who thought it was OK to do this,” mother Janet Dobrovich-Fago tells CNN. “I want the school to seek disciplinary action and to be held accountable.”
“From my perspective, I don’t understand the censorship,” father Joseph Berardo Jr. says, “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.”
He wants the yearbooks reissued, without censorship.
“And I want a letter from the administration explaining why the yearbooks are being reissued, and it should be used as a teaching moment related to the First Amendment in civil discourse,” Berardo tells the Post.
Such censorship is blatantly unconstitutional. In Tinker vs. Des Moines, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1969 students and teachers may engage in political speech in a government school.
In that case five students had been suspended for wearing black armbands, to protest the Vietnam War.
“It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the majority opinion.