A high school teacher in New Jersey was suspended on Monday after parents complained that their children’s yearbook pictures or captions had been altered to remove references to President Donald J. Trump.
The teacher, who has not been publicly named, was the yearbook adviser at Wall Township High School near Asbury Park, said Kim Keator, executive secretary to Cheryl Dyer, the superintendent of schools.
In a statement posted online Saturday, Ms. Dyer said two parents had complained to the school district that their children’s clothing appeared to have been digitally altered in their yearbook pictures and 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,” Ms. Dyer wrote. She said the alterations amounted to “censorship and the possible violation of First Amendment rights.”
“This allegation is being taken very seriously and a thorough investigation of what happened is being vigorously pursued,” she wrote.
Ms. Keator said the suspension of the teacher would be in effect until that investigation was completed. She said she believed the suspension to be a form of paid leave.
The yearbook alterations appear to have affected at least three students from two families. Two parents, Joseph Berardo and Janet Dobrovich-Fago, spoke to CNN on Monday and said that their children’s pictures or quotes had been changed. Attempts to reach both parents were unsuccessful on Monday.
“I want to know who thought it was O.K. to do this,” Ms. Dobrovich-Fago told CNN.
The alterations affected her daughter Montana, the freshman class president, and son Wyatt, a junior, she told CNN. Montana submitted a quote by Mr. Trump that was not published in the yearbook, and a picture of Wyatt was altered to remove Mr. Trump’s name from the vest he wore on picture day, she said.
In an appearance on Fox News on Monday morning, Wyatt Dobrovich-Fago said he thought the alterations happened because “someone just didn’t like our president and didn’t want to have him in the yearbook.”
“There is a deliberate attempt to censor and to silence someone’s freedom of speech,” he said on Fox.
A photograph of Grant Berardo, a junior, was also changed, his father, Joseph, told CNN. On picture day Grant wore a shirt that said “TRUMP: Make America Great Again” written across the front. But when he got his yearbook, the photograph had been digitally altered to look like his shirt was plain black.
Mr. Berardo told CNN he wanted the school to reissue the yearbook without the digital alterations, but he said he also thought the episode could be a learning experience for everyone involved.
“There is an opportunity to use this as a teaching moment for the kids, and for the teachers as well,” Mr. Berardo told CNN. “This is a First Amendment, freedom of speech issue.”
In her statement, Ms. Dyer said a decision to edit political references from a student’s outfit in a yearbook picture would find no support in the school district’s dress code. She said the only clothing students were not allowed to wear were garments that alluded to the use of alcohol, drugs or weapons
“There is nothing in Wall Township High School’s student dress code that would prevent a student from expressing his or her political views, or support for a political figure, via appropriate clothing and attire,” she said in the statement. “Indeed, the administration applauds students for becoming involved in politics, making their voices known, and taking an active part in our democracy.”
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