TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) –New Jersey school sports officials have asked the state Division on Civil Rights to look into a photo that shows members of a high school wrestling team apparently depicting a lynching.
The photo shows seven white teens wearing Phillipsburg High School wrestling attire posed with a black tackling dummy in a Paulsboro wrestling shirt hanging from a noose.
Paulsboro is a major rival for the team. Two of the boys have the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points.
The photo surfaced online in recent days but some students have said that it isn’t what it looks like.
“They’re great kids. They were just excited about winning the match and they deserved it. It just got to their heads,” fellow student David Seldow explained.
Students said that the wrestling team only has dark colored dummies and that the team is typically well disciplined.
“They are all good kids from good families. Coach Post is very disciplined and teaches them well,” Ryan O’Dowd said.
The NJSIAA is also awaiting a response from Phillipsburg High on how the situation will be handled, White said.
The Phillipsburg school district released a statement that said:
“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.”
Paulsboro Superintendent Walter Quint called the incident a teachable moment.
“Phillipsburg is doing an investigation and we’re giving them time to conduct their investigation,” he said, “This is a teachable moment where we can say ‘now you can see what can happen when you make a mistake online.'”
One Phillipsburg resident attributed the incident to youthful immaturity.
“Kids do stupid things and this is an incredibly stupid act if it is what it appears to be,” Paul Sofhauser said.
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association assistant director Larry White said his office forwarded the photo to the state Division on Civil Rights on Tuesday.
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