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Paulsboro Wrestler and Family to Sue Phillipsburg Wrestlers for Lynching Photo – Valid Lawsuit? [POLL]

Lehigh Valley Live
Lehigh Valley Live

Well, this didn’t take long.

The African American family of one of the members of the Paulsboro wrestling team that was the target of a photo that had been taken by members of the rival Phillipsburg depicting what appeared to be a lynching, has filed an intent to sue the members of the team along with Warren County and the school district – alleging that the photo caused them emotional distress.

You may remember the hubbub caused by the photo, resulting in the Phillipsburg students’ suspensions from the state tournament. The boys had all appeared with their lawyer apologizing for the incident claiming that the photo wasn’t meant in any way to offend – but rather to show school spirit.

At the time, I remember thinking that the students who’d taken the picture probably didn’t realize how the picture would look to some of us.

For instance, anyone who remembers the struggles of the civil rights movement could recall seeing pictures of African American men hanging from a tree – and feeling the horror of seeing it.

For kids who may not have had that kind of historical sensibility, posing for the picture with the dark colored wrestling dummy with pointed hoodies draping the heads of a couple of them may not have had the same kind of impact. Or so I felt at the time, and still do.

Well, it looks as though the chickens have come home to roost.

For now we have a family that claims to have been “clearly intimidated” by the photo – and plan to sue.

According to this:

The family of a student at Paulsboro High School intends to sue over the photograph of student wrestlers posing with a hanging dummy, according to the Warren Reporter.

Phillipsburg High School officials told the newspaper on Tuesday that the suit comes from a Paulsboro High School student’s family.

“The board has received a tort claim notice on behalf of a Paulsboro student, however; since this is pending/anticipated litigation, I am unable to comment on that notice or any pending/anticipated action,” Phillipsburg Superintendent George Chando told the newspaper.

Earlier information indicated the lawsuit was from a black student at Phillipsburg, per an NBC10 story. The Times is trying to determine the identity of the Paulsboro student. The race of the student and family is not known at this time.

The photo, which came to light last month, depicted seven white students wearing Phillipsburg wrestling gear posing with a a black dummy, wearing a Paulsboro High School T-shirt, hanging from a noose.One of the teenagers held a paddle and two others had their sweatshirt hoods shaped into points.

A lawyer for the black student said notices of the intent to sue had been sent to the school district and the students in the picture because the client and his family felt “clearly threatened and intimidated by the photo and the action of the students.”

Phillipsburg and Paulsboro are longtime rivals. The seven teenagers in the photo were not permitted to compete in a state tournament after the picture became public.

While I can’t speak for either party, I’d imagine that the photo was meant just as the injured family is claiming it did.

It was meant to intimidate – although I still believe perhaps naively, not in the racial sense.

Either way, you try telling that to the family filing the lawsuit, as they may have had family members lost in the civil rights struggle; or who, at one time, may have been the victims of racial intimidation themselves.

True, the Phillipsburg students may have taken the picture and sent it along out of “school spirit” and a genuine intent to intimidate the other team.

Harmless fun – or at least so they claim to have meant it.

But despite that, we never know how it looks through the eyes of others.

And if, in those eyes, they see truly hurtful images – or dollar signs.

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