By clothing-bag, 06/04/2023

They edit photos in the school yearbook to cover cleavage

Opening the yearbook for the first time is usually an emotional moment. Yet this year, at a Florida high school, some female students were in shock after seeing their portraits had been edited.They edit photos in school yearbook to cover cleavage

When Riley O’Keefe, a student at Bartram Trail High School, saw her picture in the yearbook, she noticed that a black bar had been added to further cover her breasts.

"I couldn't believe they printed the yearbook looking like that," O'Keefe, 15, told CNN. "And then I started flipping through the yearbook and I saw more and more girls with their chests edited out," he recounted.

The young woman sent a photo to her mother Wednesday from school in St. Johns, Florida.

"I know she's worn (that outfit) to school hundreds of times because it's her usual outfit," her mother, Stephanie Fabre, told CNN on Monday. Fabre believes the ensemble complied with the district's dress code, which states that girls' tops "must cover the full shoulder and must be modest and not revealing or distracting."

In total, 80 photos of alumnae were altered in this year's yearbook, the district's head of community relations, Christina Langston, told CNN on Monday.

"It is disappointing to be addressing the situation of student pictures in the Bartram Trail High School yearbook," St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson said in a statement to CNN. “There was certainly never any intention to embarrass or embarrass a student because of the clothes he wears. Unfortunately, we are learning a valuable lesson about the importance of the process and understanding that the intention is not always the result."

The school's website has a disclaimer that says if student portraits in the yearbook don't match the district's student code of conduct, they may be "digitally adjusted."

"The yearbook coordinator made the decision to edit the photos based on her assessment that the women were not in compliance with the dress code," Langston said in an email to CNN.

The superintendent said the review before the school decided to edit some of the images was insufficient. He called the staff member involved an "exceptional educator" and said there will be changes to how content is viewed in yearbooks in the coming years.

What the Dress Code Prohibits

The student dress code prohibits “immodest, revealing, or distracting” clothing, per the district's code of conduct. However, each principal has the "final authority" on whether or not the clothing a student is wearing is appropriate, the code says.

Anger over edited photos is part of a larger problem, Fabre said. According to her, what needs to be reviewed is the district's dress code because of the inequality in the way she views women's and men's clothing.

They edit photos in school yearbook to cover the cleavage

“It comes with a much bigger problem of gender discrimination and these girls being attacked and sexualized by being told their clothes are wrong,” she said. "There is inequality in your dress code."

In the section referring to all students, the dress code says that "you are prohibited from wearing clothing that exposes undergarments or exposes parts of the body in an indecent or vulgar manner."

Under the "All Students" section, it says: "No tank tops or tops except in physical education classes."

The specific section for girls says that they cannot wear skirts that are more than 10 cm above the top of the knee. "Revealing clothing, pajamas and lingerie are not accepted. Undergarments must not be exposed. Hair curlers and excessive makeup will not be allowed."

While both the girls' and boys' dress code have three entries, the list of rules for boys is shorter. They say pants "should be worn at the waist." No underpants or underwear to be seen. Mustaches and beards must be neatly trimmed." Pajamas and revealing clothing are not permitted.

The district's dress code also prohibits clothing that displays "profanity, violence, discriminatory messages, sexually suggestive phrases, alcohol, tobacco, or drug-related advertisements, phrases, or symbols."

However, some parents say the dress code is outdated.

Fabre and other parents are calling for the district's dress code to be changed.

"It's old-fashioned," Fabre said, referring to students not being allowed to wear tight shorts. "I mean, it's 2021," he said.

“It should be the same for everyone,” said Fabre. "There needs to be a systematic change in the dress code."

Adrian Bartlett, another parent waiting for the school to change the dress code, said her 15-year-old daughter Brooke also noticed her yearbook photo had been edited.

Brooke's photo was also altered.

"They're telling my daughter that she should be ashamed of that part of her body, that she should cover it up," Bartlett said. "I think it's a completely wrong message for young teenagers who are already going through the body shaming era and trying to understand themselves and then feel comfortable with themselves."

Brooke has struggled with mental health and image issues, said her mother, who asked that the young woman's last name not be used. The pandemic has made things worse, she said.

Her daughter was hospitalized and is undergoing treatment for mental health issues, Bartlett said. Brooke has come a long way and only recently has she begun to feel comfortable going to school in clothes other than baggy sweatshirts, she said.

"Florida is hot 90% of the year," Bartlett said. "However, in recent years we've seen a lot of our kids wear these big, baggy hoodies 24/7, whether it's winter or summer."

While Brooke initially laughed at the terrible Photoshopping of her portrait, her mother worries about the long-term effects this may have on teens.

"I'm concerned about some of these kids that they may not be coping as well as Brooke is and how this could be really damaging to their mental health in the long run," she said.

Like Fabre, Bartlett believes the school's dress code is too strict on women, she said. She explained that she has had a hard time finding clothes that meet the dress code and that when her daughter finds an item that does, he doesn't always feel right in it.

“That affects their self-esteem and creates even more problems with the body,” he said. "There has to be some sort of middle ground where our girls can feel comfortable going to school, feel confident, and it's appropriate."

Some students argue that the code protects boys

Some students and their parents want inequality to be addressed in the code for girls and boys.

"I really hope the school takes a hard look at the way everyone views women's bodies and takes a leadership role in trying to change that view," O'Keefe said.

For her the problem goes beyond the dress code.

"It's also about how people view our bodies," she said. "For example, if a girl has a smaller chest compared to a girl who has a bigger chest, the girl with the bigger chest is much more likely to be subject to the dress code and it's not fair. We should all be able to wear the same tops, the same clothes and not be afraid of the dress code being enforced."

Bartlett agreed, saying that the current code sends "the wrong message."

"We tell our girls to cover up and dress modestly to protect the boys," she said. "I think that's the wrong message. Everyone should be responsible for themselves and our girls should be able to dress comfortably and respectfully."

Parents aren't just looking for an apology: They want lasting change that will benefit students well into the future, Fabre said. For her the apology is "100% necessary", but "the key here is that there must be a systematic change in the dress code and the consistency of how it is applied."

In addition to a code change, O'Keefe hopes the school will educate male students and staff members.

"I hope they teach boys that there's nothing wrong with our bodies," she said. "It's natural, just like yours. There is no reason why our body should be censored and theirs is fine."

Fabre said she and other parents attended a school board workshop Tuesday where the dress code was discussed.

Changes to the student code of conduct that include modifications to the dress code were proposed at the workshop, Langston said.

“There was quite a bit of public comment,” he said. The school board president said he wanted a "general dress code review committee" created, Langston said.

Langston told CNN that no action is taken at the workshops, only at school board meetings held on the second Tuesday of every month. There is a vote on the code of conduct scheduled for June 8.

“The Student Code of Conduct contains a section on dress code and there are some revisions this year,” Langston said. "Every year the Student Code of Conduct is reviewed around this time."

The school is offering a full refund to parents who contact the yearbook, Langston said. Yearbooks that are already heavily annotated will only receive a partial refund.

*with information from CNÑ

Fernanda Merida

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