Yearbook adviser sues in dispute over pro-Trump photos

WALL, N.J. (AP) — A high school yearbook adviser who was suspended after photos of two students were altered to remove President Donald Trump’s name from their clothing is now suing the district.

Teacher Susan Parsons says school officials in the New Jersey community of Wall requested the changes in 2017 but then set her up to “take the blame.” The district, she says, created a hostile work environment that led to harassment and death threats against her and violated her rights by barring her from speaking to the media.

One student wore a sweater vest with Trump’s name on it. Another student wore a T-shirt carrying the words “Trump Make America Great Again.”

School officials have said one photo was altered even though the shirt the student was wearing didn’t violate the school’s dress code. The other photo was resized to match others and apparently wasn’t altered for the purpose of removing Trump’s name. A Trump quote submitted by a third student, the freshman class president, apparently was accidentally omitted by a student.

Parsons is seeking damages and asking that the district policy that prevented her from telling her story in the media be struck down as unconstitutional.

“What happened to her is really just egregious,” said her attorney, Christopher Eibeler.

An email seeking comment was sent to Superintendent Cheryl Dyer on Tuesday.

In her suit, Parsons claims the district routinely forced her to edit yearbook photos to alter anything that could be controversial, including words on T-shirts, hand gestures and students not wearing shirts on a school trip. A school secretary who had final say over the pages as a proxy for the principal told her to edit the T-shirt photo, she says.

Parsons also claims she received hate mail and threatening phone calls and voicemails as the controversy turned into a national story.

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