TRENTON, N.J. (CBS/AP) — New Jersey school sports officials have asked the state Division on Civil Rights to look into a photo that shows members of a high school wrestling team apparently depicting a lynching.
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association assistant director Larry White says his office forwarded the picture to the state Division on Civil Rights on Tuesday.
The photo shows seven white teens wearing Phillipsburg High wrestling attire posed with a black tackling dummy in a Paulsboro wrestling shirt and hanging from a noose. Two of the boys have the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points. Paulsboro is a major rival for the team.
CBS 3 spoke to the Paulsboro Superintendent of Schools Dr. Walter Quint and he said they are taking a wait-and-see approach as to the message this photo meant, meaning was it meant to be racial or was it just meant to be trash talking between two schools? And are the kids just being insensitive, or was there something more malicious? He says that dialogue is ongoing between the two schools.
Quint adds, “Their coach has talked to our coach and their principal has talked to our principal. We are all upset by this. Teenagers do things that they shouldn’t do and it doesn’t make any of us happy, no matter who’s teenagers they are.”
The photo surfaced online in recent days.
Students have had mixed reactions to the picture.
Paulsboro student Tahje Thomas says, “It’s hurtful for one, and in this day and age it’s hard to see those things still happening.” A student from Phillipsburg High School says it was just sports trash talk, not racism, “They’re great kids. They’re all just real excited that they won the wrestling match. I think it kind of just got to their heads a little bit. I don’t think they meant what was pictured there.”
A statement received from Phillipsburg Superintendent of Schools George M. Chando says: “The incident reported is a student matter dealing with minors. An investigation was undertaken and upon conclusion of the investigation, actions were taken by the District consistent with its policies.”
There’s also an investigation that may go further by the Attorney General’s Division of Civil Rights, and the governing body for school athletics in New Jersey is expecting a report from Phillipsburg by noon on Thursday. They say after that they will think about any penalties, if anything is warranted.
Paulsboro and Phillipsburg are not expected to wrestle again this season.
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