Black High Schooler Suspended Over Yearbook Photo That Featured Racial Artwork In Background

The photo that got Jamaica Ponder suspended from school. (photo courtesy of Jamaica Ponder)

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — A Black student who wrote about racial tension at her New Jersey high school was suspended after submitting a yearbook photo that included artwork that contained a racial slur and images of lynchings.

Jamaica Ponder was suspended from Princeton High School on Monday because of the photo, Newsworks reported. It shows her with a group of friends in her home, where work from an art exhibition her father produced about race hangs on the wall.

Submitting a photo with the racial slur in the background was an oversight, Ponder said. Two letters of the word are obscured in one painting, and the other is small.

Ponder is unhappy with the school’s response.

“It’s frustrating to me to watch the school deliberately refuse to be more transparent and address its multitude of issues,” she said.

The problem isn’t that school officials aren’t perfect, she added. “The problem is that they aren’t doing anything to make themselves better.”

Principal Gary Snyder declined to comment.

Several students were disciplined for sneaking offensive imagery into the yearbook, according to a letter from Snyder sent to parents.

A group of students protested Ponder’s suspension Monday. A petition from the students calls for the suspension to be erased from her permanent record. The petition also asks administrators and faculty to educate themselves on how profanity is used by different racial and ethnic groups.

Rhinold Ponder and Michele Tuck-Ponder do not agree with their daughter’s suspension and plan to appeal to Princeton’s civil rights commission.

“This is a young Black lady who is bringing up issues that many people in Princeton don’t want to discuss,” Rhinold Ponder said. “There are frictions in this town that people don’t want revealed.

“They figure the best move is to shut her down and send a message to the other kids to ‘Shut up or you will be suspended.'”

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