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This is the time of year when yearbooks are starting to roll out -- and so are the accompanying controversies. Every year, it seems like a teen's photo is censored, removed, or altered to satisfy the whims of the administration, so instead of becoming a mode of expression and celebration, the yearbook turns into something that's more like a parting shot from school officials.
My high school didn't have a yearbook, because we were too small, which makes me kind of sad -- I like the idea of nostalgically looking through it (and forgetting half the people in the photos, let's be honest). But I know I'd be livid as hell if my school had tried to restrict a student's freedom of expression, and some of the stories below are pretty heinous, from cutting disabled students out of the yearbook to Photoshopping slutty, slutty shoulders so they're no longer bare.
Jessica Urbina Banned from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School's Yearbook for Wearing a Tux
San Francisco isn't all peace, love, and the Castro. In Catholic school, if you're a girl, you're expected to wear a dress, not a tux, in your senior portrait. Jessica dressed in a way that she felt expressed herself, so the administration dropped her photo, and now students are fighting back (they've been wearing bowties to school in protest as well as taking to social media). The school claims that it welcomes students of all backgrounds -- but apparently it doesn't want the yearbook getting too queer.
(Some) Utah Students Photoshopped to Remove Terrifyingly Bare Shoulders
The only thing worse than censorship is erratic censorship, am I right? Wasatch High School administrators apparently selected students at random for terrible Photoshop jobs covering their bare shoulders in the yearbook, lest their appearance offend the delicate sensibilities of, uh, no one. The school claims the students were dressed inappropriately and needed to learn about the real world. I have to question why some of these young women were singled out for attention in a campaign that appears to have been designed to shame them for having shoulders. (And, in at least one case, tattoos.)
Disabled Student's Senior Photo Dropped From Yearbook
Last year, disabled student Sarah Stenshorn was all set to graduate with her class and, as part of the school community, to see herself in the yearbook. That wasn't to be -- her senior photo was removed, as were those of other disabled students. While some candid photos still remained, and the yearbook gallingly featured Sign Language on the cover, apparently showing actual disabled people in the senior class was beyond the pale.
A Narrow Victory for Jeydon Loredo
Last November, this transgender Texan was told that he could only be in the yearbook if he wore "feminine attire." He said a big fat "no" to that and, with his mother backing him up, fought the school district and won: He'll be pictured in the yearbook with the senior boys, just like he should be. Loredo's situation isn't uncommon, especially in conservative school districts, where trans students are often faced with the ultimatum of not appearing or being forced to appear with students of the wrong gender.
Taylor Ellis' Coming Out Story Censored from Yearbook
This Sheridan High School student is out and proud, so it was natural to talk about his sexuality in his senior bio. Or at least, so he thought, until school officials informed him that they'd be pulling his bio, along with those of six other students, for "not meeting with the mission of our school." His profile covered what it was like to come out in a sometimes less-than-accepting community, and made for a sharp, fascinating, and moving discussion of what it's like to live in Sheridan as a gay teen -- but students won't be reading it in their yearbooks.
Colorado Teen "Too Revealing" for Yearbook
Sydney Spies wanted to look good in her senior yearbook, so she sent in professional modeling photos to help herself stand out. The school, however, decided they were "too revealing." So, too, did the students on the yearbook committee, who threw out the first photos she submitted and rejected the second round, too. The photos show a confident, poised young woman, and apparently that sort of thing is just not acceptable.
Mesa High School's Teen Parent Controversy
Rather than being a tale of censorship, this is just the opposite: the story of a yearbook committee explicitly deciding to do a spread on teen pregnancy to make sure all the students in their school are included in the yearbook. They might not have expected a big kerfuffle, but that's what happened, as people insisted that Mesa was "glorifying" teen pregnancy with their frank, honest look at what it's like to be a parent in high school. The controversy is a reminder of the shame and stigma that hovers over teen parents.
Lesbian Student's Candid Shot Removed from Texas Yearbook
It's a sweet, tender, candid photograph: Felicia Rivera hugging her girlfriend, Lialani Hernandez. But the school insisted that it violated restrictions on public displays of affection, so it pulled the photo from its 2013 yearbook, despite the fact that pictures of heterosexual couples in similar poses were left in. What should be a celebration of young love has instead become a symbol of a school's homophobia and small-mindedness when it comes to depicting its own community.
Explicit Photo Makes its Way into Florida Yearbook
A student at Sickles High School in Florida chose to go commando for picture day in 2009 because she wanted to avoid the appearance of a panty line (and perhaps for comfort: Floridians, please weigh in on this subject). What she ended up with, though, was a picture of her genitals for all the school to see, because her skirt rode up when she sat down for a group photo and apparently neither the photographer nor the yearbook committee noticed. The yearbook ran with the humiliating photo, and people promptly blamed her for wearing too short a skirt, being fat, and not wearing panties in the first place.
Teen Moms Erased from Yearbook
At Wheatmore High School in North Carolina, Caitlin Tiller wasn't allowed to have a photograph of her with her son in the yearbook. In Texas in 2008, a pregnant teen's story was pulled from the yearbook. In Michigan, pregnant teens were told their bellies couldn't show in yearbook photos.
Yearbooks should be about community and celebrating the diversity of the student body. Apparently many school administrations have missed this message, choosing instead to excise disabled students, teen moms, gay and transgender teens, and young women who, uh, exist while female. What a fond memory and rousing message of integration and respect to leave students with as they transition into adulthood!