A picture of teen
love Newark couldn't face
Gay pair's photo
covered up in yearbook
BY KASI ADDISON,
nj.com from the Web, June 23, 2007
photo blocked out off yearbook. School Officials say Photo was
A photograph of an East Side High
School student kissing his boyfriend was blacked out of every copy of the
school's yearbook by Newark school officials who decided it was inappropriate.
Andre Jackson said he never thought he would offend anyone when he bought a page
in the yearbook and filled it with several photographs, including one of him
kissing his boyfriend.
But Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden called the photograph
"illicit" and ordered it blacked out of the $85 yearbook before it was
distributed to students at a banquet for graduating seniors Thursday.
"It looked provocative," she said. "If it was either heterosexual or gay,
it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture."
Russell Garris, the assistant superintendent who oversees the city's high
schools, brought the photograph to Bolden's attention Thursday afternoon.
He was concerned the picture would be controversial and upsetting to parents,
There are several photos of heterosexual couples kissing in the yearbook, but
the superintendent said she didn't review the entire yearbook and was presented
only with Jackson's page.
Ripping the page out entirely was considered but, Bolden said, it was decided
blacking it out with a marker would lessen the damage to the yearbooks.
Jackson said he showed up at the banquet, excited to collect his yearbook.
He'd paid an additional $150 for the special tribute page filled with shots of
boyfriend David Escobales, 19, of Allentown, Pa., and others. Jackson
learned what happened to his page moments before the books were distributed.
While the students waited, staff members in another room blacked out the 4
1/2-by-5-inch picture from approximately 230 books.
"I don't understand," said Jackson, 18. "There is no rule about no gay
pictures, no guys kissing. Guys and girls kissing made it in."
East Side's is like most high school yearbooks. About 80 pages in the
roughly 100-page tome are dedicated to class photos, formal shots of seniors,
candids and spreads dedicated to a variety of sports teams and academic clubs.
The back of the book is a collection of tributes where students designed pages
filled with pictures depicting them with their families, girlfriends and
boyfriends, and friends.
Rules for publication of the pages prohibited shots of gang signs, rude gestures
and graphic photos, said Benilde Barroqueiro, an East Side senior graduating
"You know, it couldn't be too provocative. No making out, no tongue," she
Students were surprised when they opened their books and found Jackson's picture
had been covered with marker, Barroqueiro said.
"He purchased the page and fell under the rules," she said. "If they want
to kiss, that's their page. If you don't like it, don't look at it."
Submitting the picture wasn't about shocking people, Jackson said.
"We were kissing, which everyone does when they're in a relationship. They
are expressing happiness and love for the person they care about," he said.
"It wasn't that I wanted everyone to see and see I'm gay. I wanted
everyone to feel the love I feel."
The school offered to refund the $150 fee he paid for the page, but Jackson said
he turned it down.
What made the situation even stranger is same-sex couples are rather accepted at
East Side, said senior Uerequenia Pereira.
"You see people kissing all the time," she said.
Bolden said certain behavior is not appropriate in a yearbook and there should
be standards about what is published. An investigation into who approved
the final draft of East Side's yearbook will be initiated and policies about
what can go in a book will be reviewed, she added.
"You just can't put anything in there because you paid for it," she said,
reiterating her belief that Jackson photo was over the line. Blacking it
out wasn't meant to be homophobic, she said.
Escobales, who hasn't seen the yearbook, said that's how it seems to him.
"I understand the school doesn't want problems," he said. "I just wish
they would have let it in. It's us. That there are straight couples
in there showing affection. That makes it worse."
Kasi Addison may be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (973)