Grant Bernardo, the New Jersey high school teen whose “Make America Great Again” t-shirt was edited in his Wall High School yearbook, made enough noise over the ridiculous censorship to get national media attention. Superintendent Cheryl Dyer announced Monday that the unnamed teacher responsible was suspended “pending further disciplinary action” from the school board.
The person responsible for the careful editing of Bernardo’s shirt was reportedly the adviser of the yearbook club. According to the high school’s website, that person is Susan Parsons. Dyer didn’t confirm the name of the teacher, and said she could not comment on further disciplinary action.
“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, referring to the suspension. Termination of the teacher requires the school board to file tenure charges against her.
Parsons, who reportedly made $87,950 salary last year, has worked in the district for 15 years, according to her LinkedIn page. On the school website, she says she teaches students “real world skills” in “photo editing” during her yearbook class.
The New York Post was able to get a phone interview with Parsons. According to their report Parsons said:
“We have never made any action against any political party.” When asked if she knew who scrubbed the Trump images, she said, “I’m going to hang up.”
Apparently, Bernardo wasn’t the only student to see an instance of censorship in the yearbook. App.com reports:
According to CNN, a brother and sister at the school also alleged censorship. Wyatt Debrovich-Fago wore a sweater vest in his picture with a Trump campaign logo, but it was seemingly cropped out of the photo.
His sister, Montana, served as president of the school’s freshman class. That role usually comes with a quote next to a picture, and Montana selected: “I like thinking big. If you are going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”
But in the yearbook, hers was the only photo without a quote.
“I want to know who thought it was okay to do this,” Janet Dobrovich-Fago, the teens’ mother, told CNN. “I want the school to seek disciplinary action and to be held accountable.”
Wall School Board President Allison Connolly said the board “found the allegations of wrongdoing disturbing and take the charge that students have had their free speech rights infringed upon very seriously.”
The investigation will determine whether Jostens, the company that took the photographs and prints the yearbooks, made the alterations or if they were made by someone at the school. In one interview, Dyer said a student’s image should only have been altered if it was in violation of the dress code, and that political messages are “absolutely not” a violation.
Grant’s father, Joseph Berardo Jr. wants the school to recall the yearbooks and reissue new, unaltered yearbooks. Reportedly, he’s considering legal action if that doesn’t happen.
“From my perspective, I don’t understand the censorship,” Berardo said. “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 said any censorship would be wrong, adding “What’s frustrating to me is that this was the first election [Grant] took interest in, but what message did the school send?”
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