Every year, schools take time out of their busy schedule to take class pictures for the annual yearbook. On picture day, several students at a high school in New Jersey wanted to show their support for President Donald Trump by wearing clothing with his name on it.
However, when they finally received their yearbooks and went to see how their picture came out, they noticed Trump’s name was erased. Unsurprisingly, this kind of political censorship sparked a massive amount of outrage. As a result, the yearbook adviser responsible was suspended.
According to reports, the yearbook teacher at Wall Township High School in Wall was recently suspended for permitting the removal of Trump’s name in several students’ pictures. Although the administration has not yet made any official announcements about the identity of the person suspended, Grant Berardo, one of the students affected by the teacher’s censorship, informed reporters that Susan Parson was the one responsible. In response to the accusations of political censorship, Parson, who has reportedly worked for the district for 15 years and currently teaches Yearbook 1, 2, and 3, said, “we have never made any action against any political party” and refused to comment further.
Fortunately, the school administration stood up for the conservative students. Shortly after the incident, Cheryl Dyer, the Superintendent of Wall Township public schools, sent a letter out to concerned parents reassuring them that censoring political speech was absolutely against school policy. “There is nothing in our student dress code that would prevent a student from expressing his or her political views and support for a candidate for political office via appropriate clothing. Rather, I applaud students for becoming involved in politics and for participation in our democratic society,” Dyer stated in the letter. “The high school administration was not aware of and does not condone any censorship of political views on the part of our students. This includes statements that they might make or clothing with references to candidates for public office that they might wear,” she added.
Dyer also mentioned how the administration found out about the censorship. “Two parents have notified the school district of ways in which the attire of their children was altered in yearbook photos. Further, there are claims that comments or quotes offered for inclusion in the yearbook were not published. References to and support of President Trump were involved in each of these incidents,” read the letter.
One of the parents who contacted the administration was Joseph Berardo, Grant’s father. He was furious that the wording of his son’s “TRUMP Make America Great Again!” shirt was covered up. When asked by reporters how his son reacted to the censorship, he said, “he was just really surprised; it was the first election he ever took an interest in.” He added, “his question was, ‘Is it okay? Did someone do something here that they shouldn’t have done?’ That’s why I’m pursuing it,” noting, “although these are your teachers and administrators, there are still things you’re permitted to do through the Constitution.”
After speaking with the school’s administration, he shared his experience on Facebook. “There was a lapse in judgment and mistakes were made. I suspect there will be meaningful consequences,” he explained. “I refuse to be censored although my son was,” he noted, adding, “issues like these are too important to look the other way. HOWEVER, if we agree to talk instead of shout, I believe we can always find common ground.”
The second parent to complain to the administration was Janet Dobrovich-Fago. Her son Wyatt wore a sweater with Trump’s name on it and her daughter Montana tried to submit a Trump quote to be featured with her image. However, when the books were released, the logo on his shirt was removed and the quote was not there, which was understandably upsetting. “I want to know who thought it was okay to do this,” Janet told reporters. “I want the school to seek disciplinary action and to be held accountable,” she added. Thankfully, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.
Although the school should have stopped the books from being sent out in the first place, once they became aware of the problem, they should have done more to fix it. In addition to apologizing to the family, they should have fired the teacher and reprinted every single yearbook with the unaltered images. Doing so would’ve sent a clear message that political censorship will not be tolerated.