NJ Superintendent Apologizes to Gay Student Over Censored Kiss

Newark schools superintendent Marion Bolden made a public apology to a group of assembled students on Tuesday before talking personally with Andre Jackson, the 18-year-old student whose photo she had ordered blacked out of 230 school yearbooks because it depicted Jackson in a kiss with his boyfriend.

Gayyearbookkiss_2Said Bolden: “We have to own up to the fact that it was a homophobic moment. That’s what everybody’s afraid to say. There are sensitivity issues we need to talk about as a result of this.”

Actually, I think everyone but the superintendent was aware it was a homophobic moment. It’s Bolden that needs the sensitivity training.

According to the Associated Press, “Bolden said she arrived at the school Tuesday to find [Jackson] reluctant to speak with her, but that the two spoke after she made a public apology to the assembled students. ‘He said he felt a lot better,’ Bolden said. ‘He said he’s had more issues around his coming out from outside school than in school, so it was particularly hard for him.’ During her public remarks, she said the picture of Jackson kissing his boyfriend was not appropriate for the yearbook and that, if it was to be removed, two pictures of heterosexual couples kissing should have been removed as well.”

Gay Kiss Student Still Waiting for NJ Superintendent’s Apology [tr]
NJ Superintendent Apologizes for Censoring Gay Kiss [tr]
Student’s Gay Kiss Photo Struck from NJ School Yearbook [tr]


  1. tjc says

    Just when I thought Supt Bolden might have been on track to fix this thing she says this:

    said the picture of Jackson kissing his boyfriend was not appropriate for the yearbook

    She still doesn’t get it. She tries to cover by saying if it was to be removed, remove the heteros too, but that’s not her saying the hetero kisses were inappropriate for a yearbook. That’s her saying in order to piss on the gays like we want to, we need to piss on the hets too.

    Sorry, she fucked up again. I really hope Garden State Equality picks up on this and holds her feet to the fire.

    I called the office earlier this week and spoke w/ utterly clueless phone answerers. I am very much not impressed with the job she’s doing. And she should have to pay for the yearbook reprinting out of her own pocket, not the District’s.

  2. Cameron says

    I read your blog daily and I love it. But sometimes, in instances such as this, I think you need to learn to forgive. Blacking out the picture was homophobic and wrong, but apologising for it, publicly, was the right thing to do. She has had an “a-ha!” moment and has acknowledged it.
    When you look back 5, 10, 15 years you see that the acceptance of the LGBT community has made exponential strides and continues too. I’m not saying the fight is over or don’t hold people accountable for their actions; there’s plenty work yet to be done.
    But in a world where aknowledgement of wrongdoing and an apology can lead to multimillion dollar frivilous law suits, (in this case one that would devestate a school districts budget and effect who knows how many kids education) it takes real guts to lay it all out like she has. Chances are going forward she will be more sensitive and thoughtful towards our community. So I’d like to forgiver her moment of bigotry, accept her apology, and direct the vitriol where it’s most needed.

  3. em says

    I think Cameron’s approach is more mature. Life’s a learning curve for everyone and sometimes like you say it takes a bigger person to apologize, even if it’s not worded exactly to the letter as many people would like.

  4. soulbrotha says

    Excuse me, but I don’t agree.

    Stating that the pictures of kids kissing one another should be removed, whether homo or hetero and then using the all inclusive “we” instead of “I” is NOT an apology! SHE is the one that censored the books. No one else did, so it is SHE that needs the sensitivity training. And you can’t tell me that in all the yearbooks prior to this one, that there were no hetero couples kissing. Please. chile!

  5. tjc says

    Cameron, I disagree. Chances are going forward Bolden is going to cover her ass much better, only to appear to be more sensitive to our community.

    I was ready to forgive and move on until she said the picture was inappropriate for a yearbook. It’s a perfectly wonderful photo for a yearbook.

    She did not say (according the the article) the hetero kissing pictures were inappropriate, only that they would have to be removed if she removed this picture.

    She still doesn’t get it. She might be closer than she was over the weekend, but she isn’t there yet.

  6. Rita says

    Cameron is exactly right.

    2006 was the Year of the Apology.

    2007 should be the Year of Shutting the Fuck Up and Forgiving Already Once the Person You’ve Forced to Apologize Has Apologized.

  7. ck says

    They’re just closed mouth-kissing, what’s inappropriate about that? It’s not like he’s sucking his boyfriend off.

    Good grief, I hate Puritanism.

  8. Cameron says

    The debate may boil down to wether or not you beleive kissing students is appropriate yearbook material.
    I’m just saying, if you don’t choose your battles wisely, you lose the war.
    And, I beleive that if one can’t be compassionate, understanding and forgiving, then one sinks down to the bigot’s level.

  9. says

    Wait a minute.. we can’t let kids kiss in the yearbook?

    I mean, the large majority of them are getting far more action than kissing, but as long as we don’t post pictures of it I guess we can pretend it doesn’t happen.

    God this country is so prudish. Damn those puritans.

  10. domo says

    I agree with Cameron. The fact that Bolden apologized and independently identified her actions as homophobic is something unheard of in the world of bigots. But Andy, you just want blood and in your incredibly absurd adolescent way, you continue to demonize her. I’m very disappointed in your coverage of this. The woman should be applauded for amending her mistake. I agree, her mistake was horrible, but she had done something no other homophobe could do. She’s apologized. She’s tried to make amends. And you, a man we’ve all come to read and listen to as a man of compassion, continues to spit in her face. I’m ashamed for you. I’m ashamed of you. Really. You’re white man privilege is showing.

  11. marty says

    Cameron, Domo

    thanks guys. For all the holier than thou preaching that some folks on here do on a daily basis, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they become the very thing they profess to be fighting against. pity.

  12. jacknasty says

    Whatever, its still an ugly picture and I wouldn’t want it in any of my high school yearbook…I wouldn’t want a straight, lesbian or transgernder couple in a picture like that either.

  13. PJ says

    Bolden stated that even if the photo was inappropriate, there were two other pictures of heterosexuals that should also have been censored. I don’t know if I agree with any of them being censored.
    What is important here is that:

    1) Bolden retracted her decision.
    2) She has ordered replacement copies to be made.
    3) She is keeping the censored copies for anyone who wants them. I know it is homophobic to be sensitive to seeing two men kiss but being sensitive to other people’s sensitivities is a very mature thing to do.
    4) Bolden made both a public apology and a private apology.
    5) Johnson has accepted the apology.

    It seems to me that the injured party has accepted his recompense. To be still angry with Bolden when one is not the injured party only shows that prejudice, intolerance and bigotry are on both sides of the pink curtain.
    IMHO, Johnson has shown considerably more maturity and courage than a number of people here. That saddens me.

  14. Joy says

    That picture should have been removed. So should any heteros kissing. There’s no need to put shit like that in a school yearbook. I’m so sick of hearing people being forced to backtrack on their actions because a few people object. But in a highschool yearbook, we don’t need to see any students kissing each other. Whatever happened to focusing on school plays, science fairs and sporting events?

  15. white knight says

    if they are gay then let them be because its their life they can do what ever they want so leave them alone