When students at Heritage High School opened up their long-awaited yearbooks on Thursday, they saw a bevy of images from their time together since last fall.
But one snapshot of a teacher at the California bay area school caused what’s becoming a major stir, reported KTVU-TV in Oakland.
In Smith’s photo he sports a sweatshirt with the hood covering his head (like Martin wore the night he was killed) and holds a bag of Skittles candy (which Martin was reportedly carrying the same night).
In the photo, Smith also makes what appear to be hand gestures:
TheBlaze on Friday emailed Smith and asked why he chose to pose in that way for his yearbook photo and specifically if he meant anything by the apparent hand gestures in the photo. The email was not immediately returned.
TheBlaze also called Heritage High School Principal Larry Oshodi for more information, including if any faculty member or administrator serves as an adviser to the school yearbook and if the content was reviewed before publication. The message was not immediately returned.
In addition, TheBlaze spoke to an official with the Liberty Union High School District for more information and is awaiting contact from the superintendent.
“I think it’s OK that he did it, just not in the yearbook,” sophomore Amber McKim told KTVU regarding Smith’s yearbook photo. “I think he can do it at his house or on his Facebook. But not in the yearbook.”
“Yeah, cause it’s going to be there forever,” sophomore Sydney Veuve added to KTVU.
But Alfreda Charway, the school’s Black Student Union president, had a different take.
“I think it’s a good idea because he’s expressing himself,” Charway told KTVU. “Because that’s the whole point of yearbook pictures — you’re supposed to express yourself.”
As to what message she thought the teacher was trying to send, if any, Charway said she didn’t know “but I think he just wanted to draw more attention to it.” What Charway meant by “it” isn’t exactly clear from her interview.
Zimmerman was acquitted last summer after being charged for murdering Martin in a case that elicited a national debate over racism and racial profiling.
Maria Tan, a parent, said Smith’s photo wasn’t a good idea.
“I am kind of sad about it, that it has to go be put in the yearbook,” Tan told KTVU.
“I think you could take it different ways, but I think a high school yearbook as a teacher is not the place to make your stance,” another parent, Michelle Alameda, told KTVU.
A woman who declined to give her name, reportedly a mother, had this to say to KTVU: “I think that’s very inappropriate for a yearbook. This is supposed to be capturing the best moments of the year. And all positive things.”
KTVU reported that it attempted to contact Smith regarding why he chose to be photographed in that way, but that Smith was gone for the day. KTVU said Heritage’s principal indicated he only just learned about the photograph and will look into the matter before commenting.