US

New Jersey High School Yearbook Adviser Declines the Blame for Censoring Trump Logos

By Victor Westerkamp

A high school yearbook adviser filed a complaint against a New Jersey school district, claiming she was forced to edit out pro-Trump logos from students’ clothing on yearbook photos.

Susan Parsons, 64, who had been the yearbook adviser of Wall High School since 2011, was allegedly coerced to erase President Donald Trump’s name from two students’ outfits. She was also forced to publicly take the blame for doing so, the lawsuit says.

Parsons filed the lawsuit against the Wall Township Board of Education and Superintendent Cheryl Dyer on May 6, according to APP News, accusing the district of making her “take the blame” for the censorship. The story made headlines in 2017, putting her under an unwelcome spotlight.

The complaint details that every page of each yearbook “was closely reviewed and examined by several members of the administration,” and this goes for all the principals and vice principals who would have to give formal consent after specific edits had been made.

“That has to go,” Cindy McChesney, secretary to Principal Rosemary Sirchio, allegedly said about the Trump campaign logo on student Grant Berardo’s T-shirt in December 2016, according to the complaint. Berardo’s parents complained about the deletion and Parsons was suspended by the school board ahead of a scheduled a meeting with the parents.

Parsons’s lawsuit seeks to reclaim lost income and expected wages due to a hostile working environment that was created after the affair including harassment and even death threats. It also claims she was denied her First Amendment rights because the school did not allow her to speak out in defense of herself.

After the story had gone national, Mrs. Parsons received numerous hate messages and even death threats. People also agitated against her private swimming school business, leaving bad ratings on the internet and warning potential clients about her alleged background.

Michael Gross, the school board’s attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Unwelcome Notoriety

On June 12, 2017, The New York Post published an article about the scandal wherein Parsons was identified as the yearbook adviser and singled out as the culprit.

“The superintendent is outraged,” the outlet posted on Twitter, “and doing everything she can right now to get to the bottom of this.”

After the story went viral, the superintendent responded, offering to reissue the yearbook with the original photos.

“I do not believe that it is possible to create a yearbook of 248 pages, thousands of pictures, names, and lines of text and have it be error free,” Dyer stated in a letter to parents, USA Today reported. “That being said, I cannot allow the intentional change that was not based on dress code to be ignored. I am the Chief School Administrator in this district and I take responsibility for the actions of those who are employed here.

“Therefore, I have determined that a re‐issuance of the yearbook is necessary,” she continued.

In June 2017, President Trump posted on Facebook a letter of thanks he’d sent to two of the students, Montana and Wyatt Dobrovich-Fago, for speaking out.

For his yearbook photo, Wyatt had worn a Trump logo on his shirt that was later cropped out, and his sister, Montana, had submitted a quote by Trump as her senior quote, which was omitted from the yearbook—accidentally, according to Dyer.