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December 26, 2014

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Professor: ‘Game of Thrones’ picture got me suspended

PARAMUS, N.J. — A New Jersey professor says he was suspended over an online photo containing a quote from "Game of Thrones" that he says a school official perceived as a threat.

Francis Schmidt, who teaches art and animation at Bergen Community College, says he was suspended for eight days after posting a photo in January of his 7-year-old daughter wearing a T-shirt with a quote from the graphic HBO show that read: "I will take what is mine with fire and blood."

Schmidt said school officials questioned whether the reference was meant as a threat against a dean, who was one of the people who viewed the post on Schmidt's Google Plus social media feed.

The school has been embroiled in labor negotiations and Schmidt said he wondered if his suspension had to do with him filing a grievance after being denied a sabbatical about two months prior to the incident.

Schmidt says he was ordered to consult a psychiatrist as one of the conditions of being reinstated with back pay.

School spokesman Larry Hlavenka told The Associated Press on Friday the school had followed its safety protocols in the case, which he called a private personnel matter.

"In following its safety and security procedures, the college investigates all situations where a member of its community — students, faculty, staff or local residents — expresses a safety or security concern," Hlavenka said, citing multiple school shootings across the U.S. this year.

Schmidt told The Record (http://bit.ly/1leamtv ) that school officials told him the quoted phrase triggered thoughts of the possibility of a school shooting when he asked what they found threatening about it.

"For God's sake, I'm a middle-aged art professor, I don't own any firearms," Schmidt told the newspaper.

The hit television series is based on the books by Bayonne, N.J.-born fantasy writer George R.R. Martin.

Schmidt's suspension was first reported Thursday on the Inside Higher Ed website.

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