Some high school wrestlers in Warren County, New Jersey are in the hot seat after a controversial photo surfaced this week.
In a picture obtained by the Express Times, seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers are seen posing with a black dummy that's hanging by a noose.
The dummy is wearing a Paulsboro High School Wrestling T-shirt.
Two of the teenage boys have their hoods up in a point and another appears to be saluting.
"It's inappropriate, insensitive. It's just wrong on so many levels," said Superintendent Walt Quint, Paulsboro Public Schools.
It has some questioning if the photograph was racially inspired.
Quint said there are black students on Paulsboro's squad, but he doesn't believe it was a direct attack on race or any specific individual.
"A foolish act by a group of young men…My guess is they aren't even aware of the history and how insensitive and wrong this is," Quint said.
Students at Phillipsburg agree. They described the photo as commentary on Phillipsburg's recent victory over Paulsboro. Phillipsburg defeated Paulsboro 38-21 on Feb. 1.
"I know a lot of them, it wasn't supposed to be a malicious thing," said Jeremy Edinger, a student at Phillipsburg High School
"Nothing toward racism, it was more of a joke. If you know the boys, they didn't mean anything offensive by it," said Meghan Wicks, a student at Phillipsburg High School.
Quint said the two schools have had an ongoing rivalry.
"There is a rivalry, a good rivalry. Fierce yes. They are two premiere wrestling programs," Quint said.
But parents aren't seeing the fun.
"I don't think it's kids just being kids. They're clearly old enough to know better in this picture," said Elaine Valk, a parent.
"It's disgusting," said Robert Pierce, a parent.
Quint said he discussed the matter with Phillipsburg's superintendent and he expects the friendly rivalry to continue.
"It doesn't represent their school wrestling team, it certainly doesn't represent the rivalry we have," Quint said.
Phillipsburg School District released a statement to Tuesday afternoon stating:
"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."
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