A high school in St. Johns, Fla., digitally altered the yearbook photos of 80 girls to cover more of their chests and shoulders which, said outraged parents and students, was an example of body-shaming and sexism. The original images, which Bartram Trail High School deemed inappropriate, were crudely edited with Photoshop, with parts of the students’ clothing copied and then pasted on again to obscure any cleavage. The ridiculed touchups swiftly drew international attention, partly because only the photos of females were changed and none of the teens had been notified beforehand. One was ninth-grader Riley O’Keefe, 15 (above, before and after the edits), who said: “I started to get really upset and angry. [The school is] looking through children’s photos and looking at their chests.” Initially, the school district, rather than issuing a formal apology as parents had demanded, said the alterations were considered a “solution” to ensure that everybody’s picture was included. The school’s website indicates that photos “may be digitally adjusted” if the clothing is not consistent with the dress code.
Eventually, St. Johns County Schools apologized, with the superintendent saying that, though the situation could have been handled better, no one on staff was at fault. Parents were also offered the chance to return their yearbook and get an unedited version at no cost. NPR reported that the high school “made headlines” earlier in the year when “dozens of girls” were removed from class and told to cover up. Some were forced to unzip their sweatshirts in front of other students and teachers to reveal whether any were wearing sports bras and tank tops, which are not allowed.
Key Apologia Strategies:
Good Intentions, Mortification, Minimization
St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Tim Forson: Certainly it would never be our intent to embarrass or call out kids or to do something that doesn’t treat them with great respect. So, the first thing is to apologize for the way this has played out.
It is something we need to be better, and we need to support her and how we move forward with it. But it’s not something that would cause discipline or employee discipline for this particular situation.
It is not our intent to embarrass or to shame any particular student. Certainly, what we intended and what the result is are two different things.
Beachum, L. (2021, May 24). A high school edited yearbook photos to hide girls’ chests. Students and parents are furious. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/05/24/bartram-trail-high-school-yearbook/
Cramer, M., & Levenson, M. (2021, May 24). Yearbook photos of girls were altered to hide their chests. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/us/yearbook-photos-st-johns-girls-altering.html
Ryan, B. (2021, June 2). Parents at Bartram Trail High School can now order new yearbooks after girls’ photos were digitally altered. Action NewsJax. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3vhcwOm
Wadley, M., & Bradfield, R. (2021, May 24). St. Johns County school superintendent apologizes over altered yearbook photos. First Coast News. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3iCB4i2