A Florida high school is getting straight Fs for doing a hack job on its yearbook after it altered girls’ photos to hide their chests and other elements deemed “immodest” under the school’s controversial dress code.
Bartram Trail High School in St Johns, Fla., edited 80 girls’ photos to raise their necklines or change patterns on their outfits in the yearbook, local station WJAX reports. Many of the changes were poorly done and made the students feel uncomfortable and sexualized, according to an angry parents group.
“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,” mother Adrian Bartlett told the St. Augustine Record.
Bartlett added that her daughter, Brooke, has been struggling with body image issues throughout the year, and is now being mocked for the awkward Photoshop work on her image. “The school has made a decision that is now drawing attention to her body in a negative way,” she said.
The school has been facing pushback from parents for months over its dress code, which critics say disproportionately targets girls. In March, for example, staff gave several female students a dress code “test,” in which the girls were told to raise their arms over their heads. Any student whose abdomen was exposed during the test was sent home for violating the dress code, the St. Augustine Record reports.
Grade 9 student Riley O’Keefe says she was stunned to see that her photo had been altered to raise the neckline, particularly after her outfit had already been deemed appropriate at the school’s office.
“I couldn’t believe they printed those and thought it was OK,” she told the Washington Post. “I started to get really upset and angry. (The school is) looking through children’s photos and looking at their chests.”
Riley, who also launched a petition against the dress code earlier this year, says the school needs to understand the effects of its rules on female students.
“You’re not only affecting their photo,” she told WJAX. “You’re making them uncomfortable and (making them) feel like their bodies aren’t acceptable in a yearbook.”
“We’re not doing anything wrong,” added student Liz McCurdy, whose photo was also changed. McCurdy told WJAX that she’d worn the shirt in her photo several times at school, and has never been told that it’s inappropriate.
“Girls shouldn’t be referred to as inappropriate because it’s just our bodies,” she said.
Her father, Keith McCurdy, was also shocked by the edits.
“I was not ashamed of what she wore,” he said.
Grade 9 student Zoe Iannone says she felt “confident” and thought she “looked good” in her dress code-appropriate clothes for picture day. Then she saw the photo alterations in the yearbook.
“I felt very sexualized,” she said. “That was what they were worrying about?”
Hundreds of parents have joined the outcry against the school in a Facebook group.
“The end result is that the systematic dress code needs to be changed and consistently applied and enforced,” Riley O’Keefe’s mother, Stephanie Fabre, told the Post. “The sexualization of young girls has to stop,” she said.
“The dress code is based on creating a safe and better learning environment,” Riley said. “It completely forgets about girls and acts like something is wrong with our bodies.”
The school has said that teacher and yearbook coordinator Anne Irwin was responsible for the edits. A note on the school website warns that such edits may be done to ensure that students adhere to the dress code in photos.
St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson apologized for the edits in a statement on Monday, after the story spread widely online.
“I’m very apologetic. It’s not anything I want ever to occur again,” he said, adding that there was not sufficient review of the process. “It was never the intent to embarrass or harm any of those students,” he said.
The school has also offered affected students a refund.