It’s almost the end of another school year and students across the country are eagerly opening up their yearbooks to see which moments have been forever memorialized in its pages.
However, for some students, the photos they are seeing are not the ones they were expecting.
A high school in Florida has come under fire for digitally altering female students’ yearbook photos to cover up their shoulders and their chests.
At least 80 girls at Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns County had their photos edited. Without their consent.
17 Freshman, 28 sophomores and 38 juniors—that’s how many students I could see had their photos altered in the Bartram Trail High School yearbook. Students and parents are furious as dozens of females had their chests covered up without their knowledge. @fcn2go
— Josslyn Howard (@JosslynFCN) May 21, 2021
The editing consisted of either digitally created black bars or copied portions of their clothing cut and pasted onto their bodies in what may be the worst photoshopping job ever.
The photos in question included some of the following:
The reason cited? They were in violation of the school’s dress code policy.
Want to know how many boys had their school pictures photoshopped? Zero.
Including members of the male swim team dressed in nothing but Speedos. (And yes, this photo made it into the Bartram Trail HS yearbook.)
And this whole situation is giving off some serious Handmaid’s Tale vibes.
According to the school district spokeswoman, Christina Langston, the school’s yearbook coordinator, Anne Irwin (a teacher at the school), deemed the girls’ photos “inappropriate” and did some of the edits herself.
While Irwin’s actions are questionable (to say the least) they are within the rights of the school. At least according to their website, which states:
“All images in ads and all individual student pictures must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted.”
As for the school district’s “student code of conduct” in relation to dress, it outlines the following standards for girls:
- Tops and shirts must cover the entire shoulder and they must be modest and not revealing or distracting. Midriff or “cut out” dresses and “cut out” tops may not be worn.
- Extremely short skirts are not allowed. Skirts must be no shorter than four inches (4″) above the top of the knee.
- Revealing clothing, pajamas and lingerie are not acceptable. Underwear must not be exposed.
- Hair curlers and excessive makeup shall not be permitted.
- Girls’ pants/slacks must be worn at the waist. No underwear may be exposed.
As for the boys, their dress code states that:
- Boy’s pants/slacks must be worn at the waist. No boxer shorts or underwear may be
- Mustaches and beards shall be neatly trimmed.
- Revealing clothing and pajamas are not acceptable.
“Speedos” are exempt, apparently.
Parents and students alike are calling foul over the “modesty editing” and the obvious double standard and are speaking out against it.
Adrian Bartlett, the mother of one of the affected students at Bartram Trail HS told The St.Augustine Record:
“I think it sends the message that our girls should be ashamed of their growing bodies, and I think that’s a horrible message to send out to these young girls that are going through these changes.”
She’s not wrong.
One of the students, 15-year-old Riley O-Keefe, wore a black top covered by a cardigan sweater. An outfit that she had worn “150 times” and “knew it was a safe choice.”
Or at least she thought it was until she saw her school picture in her yearbook. A black line emblazoned across her chest like a scarlet letter.
Upon seeing the edited photo in the yearbook, Riley and her mother, Stephanie Fabre, contacted the assistant principal and asked if Riley’s outfit on picture day violated the dress code policy. IT DIDN’T.
Other students are coming forward with similar complaints, telling the media that the outfits in question were all worn to school regularly and have NEVER received a violation.
Riley told reporters:
“I flipped through the yearbook and saw how many girls’ chests were edited, and I got very upset, because it was so unnecessary. And not only that, the photoshopping job was so awful, that girls were getting bullied for it.”
Adrian Bartlett’s daughter is one of the girls dealing with the aftermath of the photoshopping debacle. Other kids are writing in her yearbook making comments and jokes. Bartlett says:
With these kids, it’s scary because they deal with so much pressure and stress already and now you put body image issues on top of it.”
In addition, Yvette Ballard’s daughter’s picture was also altered and students are harassing her by sharing the picture on Snapchat.
But it’s not just about the photoshopping of school pictures and the resulting underlying tones of sexualization.
There is also an obvious double standard at play.
15-year-old Riley addresses this, saying:
“The double standard in the yearbook is more so that they looked at our body and thought just a little bit of skin showing was sexual. But then they looked at the boys, for the swim team photos and other sports photos and thought that was fine, and that’s really upsetting and uncomfortable.”
No doubt. The message the school is sending is clear: the girls should be ashamed of their bodies. They should be ashamed that they have BREASTS and SHOULDERS.
However, as far as the boys are concerned, their bodies are on near full display and celebrated. It’s obvious that the young men’s bodies are not viewed in the same way as the young women’s bodies.
This double standard is appalling and ridiculous.
Those girls are just existing in their bodies, the only people "sexualizing" them are the ones gawking at a tiny curve of breast tissue and deciding that those bodies are impure and must be hidden.
— Liddle Lamzy Dive Bar (@saucissonsec) May 21, 2021
The school has responded to the backlash.
The district spokeswoman, Christina Langston defended the decision saying:
“Bartram Trail High School’s previous procedure was to not include student pictures in the yearbook that (it) deemed in violation of the student code of conduct, so the digital alterations were a solution to make sure all students were included in the yearbook.”
The school is offering a refund to any student who was photoshopped with the stipulation that their yearbook is returned. They are also reviewing their procedures for next year.
It’s not nearly enough.
What the school should be doing is issuing a public apology to the girls, re-publishing the yearbook with the original photos, updating their dress code to be fair across genders, and adopting policies that clearly demonstrate that BODY SHAMING IS NOT OKAY. That would be a good start at least.