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Professor Suspended Over "Game of Thrones" Post

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A New Jersey college professor was placed on unpaid leave after posting online a photo of his 6-year-old daughter wearing a shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones." Jen Maxfield reports (Published Friday, Apr 18, 2014)

    A New Jersey college professor was placed on unpaid leave after posting online a photo of his 6-year-old daughter wearing a shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones" that administrators took as a threat.

    The shirt says "I will take what is mine with fire & blood," and the photo was posted on Google+ by the Bergen Community College professor, Francis Schmidt, in January, around the time HBO released a trailer for the new season of the show.

    After a college dean saw the post, and perceived it as a "threatening email," Schmidt was ordered to meet with administrators and was then placed on unpaid leave. The dispute in January came to light this week after Inside Higher Ed referred to it in an online post.

    Schmidt on Friday shared an email with NBC 4 New York that he said was from a human resources employee at the college at the time of the dispute.

    "You are not to be on campus for any reason," the email says. "The safety of all of the members of the community is taken very seriously."

    Schmidt was allowed to return to teaching later that month after he was cleared by a psychiatrist. He says he missed crucial time with students he was advising.

    He says he can't imagine why anyone would think he's capable of violence.

    "They claimed to have never heard of 'Game of Thrones,' and so I tried to explain it to them," he said Friday.

    College spokesman Larry Hlavenka Jr. said in a statement that the matter was a private personnel issue, but added that the college takes seriously any perceived threats of violence.

    "Since Jan. 1, 2014, 34 incidents of school shootings have occurred in the United States," Hlavenka said. "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."

    Schmidt believes he was targeted because he filed a grievance against the school when he was not granted a sabbatical.

    The faculty union has also been embroiled in contract negotiations with the college; last week the union cast a no-confidence vote in the school's president. 

    --Jen Maxfield contributed to this story