TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — School sports officials asked the state's civil rights agency to look into a photo that shows members of a high school wrestling team apparently simulating a lynching.
The photo, which surfaced online in recent days, shows seven white teens wearing Phillipsburg High School wrestling attire posed with a black tackling dummy in a Paulsboro High School wrestling shirt and hanging from a noose. Two of the boys have the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points. One of the boys is holding a paddle.
Paulsboro and Phillipsburg are longtime wrestling powerhouses and rivals. Phillipsburg, in northwest New Jersey, is a community of 15,000 where about 85 percent of the population is white. Paulsboro, south of Philadelphia, has about 6,000 residents — more than one-third of them black.
According to online photos, it appears all or nearly all Phillipsburg's wrestlers are white, while some members of the Paulsboro team are black.
Phillipsburg won the teams' meet on Feb. 1 and last week won the state championship for its class. Paulsboro finished second in its group.
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Assistant Director Larry White said his office forwarded the picture to the state Division on Civil Rights on Tuesday under an anti-bullying policy.
Division spokesman Leland Moore said in a statement that it is "monitoring the respective responses of the school and the NJSIAA" and will review whether it needs to investigate further.
White said the athletic association is also awaiting a response from Phillipsburg High School on how the situation will be handled.
In a statement released Tuesday, Phillipsburg schools Superintendent George Chandro called the photo "a student matter dealing with minors" and said it was investigated and "actions were taken." He did not elaborate.