Teacher who airbrushed Trump slogan out of student's yearbook photo claims school ordered the change

A photo of a Wall Township student's T-shirt was airbrushed to remove the "Make America Great Again" logo.
Image: Grant Berardo
Grant Berardo flips through the 2017 Wall High School yearbook. Andrew Mills / AP

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By Minyvonne Burke

A New Jersey teacher who lost her position as yearbook adviser after airbrushing a student's photo to remove the "Make America Great Again" logo claims she voted for President Donald Trump and that the school ordered her to alter the picture.

Susan Parsons filed the suit in state Superior Court this week against the Wall Township school board and superintendent, alleging that administrators in the South Jersey district reviewed photos and content for the yearbook and would "instruct" her and her team on what edits to make.

According to the lawsuit, a school secretary who reviewed drafts of the 2017 yearbook told Parsons that the image of the "MAGA" slogan "has to go."

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After the published yearbook in June 2017 showed the student in a plain T-shirt with the "Trump: Make America Great Again" logo removed, the boy's parents complained, and Superintendent Cheryl Dyer sent a letter to district parents saying that the school had no knowledge the student's shirt had been altered, according to the suit.

"The public statements made by Superintendent Dyer in her letter of June 9, 2017, were false, reckless and made in the absence of Defendants conducting any investigation into the students’ claims of First Amendment violations," according to the complaint.

The school district and Dyer did not immediately return NBC News' requests for comments.

The suit also claims that Parsons repeatedly complained to administrators that editing photos and content was inappropriate censorship, but officials insisted she make the changes.

"The administration would routinely disregard Plaintiff’s complaints and objections and direct her to make the administrations recommended edits to the yearbook," the suit reads.

According to the complaint, Parsons received hate mail and threatening phone calls after the news story went viral. The township also had to assign a police officer to monitor her home, according to the suit.

Parsons, who is still employed with the district although she was removed as yearbook adviser, alleges that she was forced to stay silent about what happened because of a district policy that prohibited her from speaking with media without the district's approval.

She is seeking unspecified damages and asking the district to change its policy that kept her from going forward with her story.