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NJ elementary school bows out of American Legion coloring contest because of ‘inappropriate’ guns in photo. Then the backlash comes.


School reverses decision

David L. Ryan/Boston Globe via Getty Images

A New Jersey school opted out of an American Legion coloring contest because the project depicted American soldiers armed with guns.

According to a Tuesday article in the Bergen Record, some schools considered the guns to be "offensive" and bowed out of the annual contest. However, much backlash ensued because of the school's blatant disrespect, and reversed their decision after some people gave the schools a piece of their mind.

What are the details?

School district officials told Glen Rock, New Jersey's American Legion, that the selection for its annual coloring contest — tailored for fourth- and fifth-grade students — was "inappropriate."

The picture features three uniformed service members — circa 1919, 1965, and 2019, respectively — carrying their weapons. A nurse from 1941 is also featured. The coloring sheet also features the POW/MIA logo as well as a rifle stuck in the ground alongside a soldier's boots and helmet.

Ken Frank, Post 145 vice commander, said that he and other veterans feel disrespected.

"We are very upset, and we feel disrespected. There wasn't any reason given, and there hasn't been another school in the state, that we've heard of, that's refused to use the picture," Frank said.

The state's American Legion hosts the Americanism Award contest for students across the state on an annual basis. The pictures are typically selected by the Legion and handed out to schools. Winners are chosen at local, county, and state levels, according to the Record.

Sharon Scarpelli, president of the Board of Education, said that the decision was made because of the prominent display of guns in the picture.

"The administration had asked if they could be provided with a different picture," Scarpelli explained. "They were concerned over the display of guns in the picture."

School Superintendent Bruce Watson said that the decision was districtwide.

New Jersey American Legion Adjutant John Baker said that the Legion has no plans to change the image on the coloring page.

The deadline to submit entries is March 19, according to the outlet.

So what happened then?

A Wednesday article in the Record revealed that the school quickly reversed its initial decision after receiving criticism over the move.

A late-night email revealed that Superintendent Watson had received "a number of emails" about the controversial decision to opt out of the contest. In response, Watson issued a statement through a spokesperson.

A portion of the statement read, "This has caused me to pause. Perhaps I had too much concern for the impact of the picture. Today we look at everything thru a different lens when it comes to our students. There was no disrespect intended and now after listening to parents, I will reverse this decision and allow the pictures to go home for parents and students to decide if they wish to compete."

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