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Posted: May 22, 2014

Teacher's yearbook photo tribute to Trayvon Martin causes stir


By John Sasaki


A yearbook photo of a high school teacher making a political statement by dressing up like slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin was stirring up controversy in the community Thursday.

As classes let out for the day at Brentwood's Heritage High School in Brentwood, California Thursday, students were more excited than usual because the school had issued the 2014 yearbook.

Very quickly, a portrait taken by longtime history teacher Spencer Smith became a hot topic sweeping across campus.

In the photo, Smith is dressed like Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in 2012.
Smith is wearing a hoodie with the hood covering his head and he's holding a bag of Skittles candy.

Reactions to the photo among students were mixed.

"I think it's OK that he did it, just not in the yearbook. I think he can do it at his house or on his Facebook. But not in the yearbook," said sophomore Amber McKim.

"Yeah, cause it's going to be there forever," added her friend and fellow sophomore Sydney Veuve.

"I think it's a good idea because he's expressing himself. Because that's the whole point of yearbook pictures, you're supposed to express yourself," said Alfreda Charway Heritage High School's Black Student Union President.

But the yearbook is the year in review mostly for the students at Heritage.

"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," said one mother who declined to give her name.

The few parents who talked with KTVU thought the yearbook was not a good place for this kind of statement.

"I am kind of sad about it, that it has to go be put in the yearbook," said parent Maria Tan.

"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," said parent Michelle Alameda.

Zimmerman was tried for murdering Martin last summer, but was acquitted in the racially charged case.

"I don't know what kind of message he was trying to send, but I think he just wanted to draw more attention to it," said Charway.

A lot of kids just laughed about the picture. KTVU tried to contact Smith about why he dressed that way, but he was gone for the day.

The school principal said he just learned about it that afternoon and that he would have to look into it before commenting.

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