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The School Modified This Student’s Photo To Make It Less “Offensive” And Now They Are Being Sued

Although the Wall Township did not admit fault, it did approve a $325,000 settlement with teacher Susan Parsons. According to the teacher, she was asked to edit out a student’s Trump MAGA t-shirt for the yearbook. Parsons did the work to make it look like student Grant Berardo was wearing a plain navy blue T-shirt. The incident occurred in 2017, and Parsons is no longer a teacher with the school district.

Parsons launched her lawsuit against her former school district back in 2019. She claimed that she was forced to edit out the Trump t-shirt. Parents in the community were outraged that the Donald Trump shirt did not make an appearance in the yearbook. Trump won more votes than his Democratic opponents in the district – both in 2016 and 2020. The community was outraged that the school district “censored” the student’s love for Trump.

The settlement will be paid by the school district’s insurance. The settlement includes $204,000 for Parsons, and the rest will go toward attorney fees.

In the lawsuit, Parsons claimed that she was the high school’s advisor for the yearbook. She said that the school’s secretary, Cindy McChesney, acting on behalf of the school’s principal, asked Parsons to remove the MAGA shirt from the yearbook photo.

Allegedly the secretary told Parsons “that has to go” when making the request.

Parsons, a Trump voter, obeyed the command and removed the MAGA shirt from the yearbook. However, she did not feel good about doing it.

After the yearbook was released, the community was outraged, and the school district blamed Parsons for editing the image. She was suspended without pay from the school district and later retired. She claimed to have received death threats over the editing job. People would call her and send her threats in the mail.

In an interview with NJ Advance, Parsons said the incident made her feel like “some scourge” and she became afraid to leave home and face her community.

“My life has not been the same, and I don’t think it ever will,” she said in 2019 when she launched her lawsuit.

The student who wore the MAGA shirt claimed to have worn it to make a “historic” statement. He was surprised the school went to the length to edit out the shirt because he would have simply taken another photo for the yearbook if they had asked him to do that.

“If there was a problem, somebody could have just told my mom,” the boy said. “They had a re-take day. But no one said anything.”

Berardo’s father took the incident further, calling it “censorship” and asking for the yearbooks to be re-released with the image of his son in the Trump campaign shirt.

“It’s serious because it’s censorship,” Joe Berardo told ABC 7 at the time. “It’s a teaching moment. It’s a teaching moment for all the kids to understand that someone made a bad decision. That decision has consequences, and therefore we’re reissuing this because it was a violation of somebody’s First Amendment rights, and there was censorship. That’s it.”