After racist MAGA hat monkey photo, NJ district turns focus on itself
RARITAN TOWNSHIP — A Hunterdon County school district is coming to terms with a racist photo that students shared mocking the police killing of George Floyd.
The photo, which was posted last month and published by NJ.com, shows a white student wearing a police badge lanyard and President Donald Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" red cap while kneeling on the neck of another youth wearing a monkey mask. The photo is captioned, "Central kids man."
The school board on Monday night approved the creation of a Racism, Equity, and Diversity Committee.
Board President Vincent Panico told New Jersey 101.5 that the committee is intended to "review all aspects of the school with a lens of racism, equity and diversity to see if there are any policies, procedures or practices that have unintended consequences for the community."
Black parents who spoke to NJ.com said the photo is an example of racism that they say exists in the district. One Black father was quoted as saying that he feels like an "outsider" when dropping his children at the school.
District spokeswoman Nancy Tucker told New Jersey 101.5 that the photo was taken by Hunterdon Central students but not at the school or while school was in session.
"When the high school became aware that this had occurred, our Superintendent, Jeffrey Moore, Ed.D., immediately sent out an email to all of the parents in our high school community," Tucker said.
It's not clear if the students involved were disciplined, as Tucker said the district could not comment further on matters involving student discipline or law enforcement.
In his August email, Moore said he was disgusted at the photo.
"Central has committed itself to providing a safe, empowering, and loving environment for all of its students. Expressions that espouse racism, express hatred, glorify violence, and devalue human life run against everything that we hold in our hearts and every tenet that fuels our commitment," Moore said.
Panico would not comment on allegations of racism in the district or about the photo but said the committee, which is still developing a mission statement, is a "top priority" for the board.
"That's why we have established this committee because we want to make sure we're doing everything we can for all members and all corners of our community," Panico said.
The Hunterdon Central Regional High School serves 2,764 students from the five municipalities of Delaware Township, East Amwell, Flemington, Raritan Township and Readington. The district's enrollment is 84% white, 8% Hispanic or Latino, 5% Asian and 2% Black as of 2018.