Black puppet found hanging at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark sparks investigation

Clark Township school officials are investigating whether a puppet found to be offensive by members of the Plainfield High School girls basketball team was an intentional racial taunt or simply a misunderstanding.

The Plainfield players were at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark for a game this past weekend and found a black puppet hanging by a string around its neck and a basketball while they were in the puppetry room to change. A photo was taken and it was posted on social media.

Many from Plainfield tell News 12 New Jersey that they believe this was a deliberate attempt to portray lynching. Plainfield is a predominantly Latino and black community.

"I think there needs to be a public apology and something has to be done about that. That can't ever happen again," says Plainfield senior Janaya Kemp.

Clark students, however, say it was a misunderstanding. They say the puppets are modeled after well-known characters. The puppet in question was portraying an NBA player, according to students.

"The teacher is great. He wouldn't allow anything that was racist or anything bad at all," Clark senior Tyler Matlose says. "He just does whatever character you want and will help you out with that."

News 12 New Jersey obtained another photo that shows several other puppets hanging in the same classroom. None of the puppets had strings around their necks in the photo News 12 was given.

Clark's superintendent tells News 12 New Jersey that the school is investigating the incident and will take remedial action as necessary.

Plainfield school officials say that they are waiting for that investigation and also wrote, "We teach our children in Plainfield to be tolerant and inclusive of others and we expect the same respect from all with whom we interact."

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