Opening a yearbook for the first time is normally a full of excitement – but at a high school in Florida, some students were shocked after seeing that their directory portraits had been changed.
When Riley O’Keefe, a freshman at Bartram Trail High School, saw her yearbook photo, she noticed that a black bar had been added to cover more of her breasts.
âI couldn’t believe they printed the phone book like this,â O’Keefe, 15, told CNN. “And then I started flipping through the phone book and saw more and more girls with their breasts altered.”
On Wednesday, she sent her mother a photo from school in St. Johns, Fla.
“I know she’s worn (the outfit) to school hundreds of times because it’s like her go-to outfit,” her mother StÃ©phanie Fabre told CNN on Monday, saying she thought the outfit adhered to the district dress code. The dress code states that girls’ tops “must cover the entire shoulder and they must be modest and not show or distract.”
There were 80 photos of college girls that have been edited in the yearbook this year, district community relations chief Christina Langston told CNN on Monday.
âIt is disappointing to address the student image situation in the Bartram Trail High School Yearbook,â St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson said in a statement to CNN. âCertainly there was never any intention to embarrass or shame a student for the clothes he wears. Unfortunately, we are learning a valuable lesson about the importance of process and the understanding that it is. intention is not always the result. “
The high school’s website contains a disclaimer stating that if the student portraits in the yearbook do not match the district student code of conduct, they may be “digitally adjusted.”
“The directory coordinator made the decision to edit the photos based on her assessment that the women were not wearing a dress code,” Langston said in an email to CNN.
The superintendent said the exam was insufficient before the school decided to edit some of the students’ pictures. He called the concerned staff member an “exceptional educator” and said there would be changes in how content is reflected in upcoming directories.
DRESS CODE PROHIBITS DRESSED CLOTHING
The dress code for students prohibits âindecent, revealing or distractingâ clothing, according to the district code of conduct. However, the principal of each school has “final authority” over whether a student’s attire is appropriate, the code says.
The anger over the edited photos in the directory is part of a larger issue, Fabre said. It is the district dress code that needs to be reviewed due to its unfairness in how it treats what girls wear, as opposed to boys, the student’s parent said.
âThis follows a much bigger issue of gender discrimination and these girls being targeted and sexualized because they were told their clothes were bad,â she said. “There is an inequality in their dress code.”
In the section devoted to all students, the dress code states that “students are prohibited from wearing clothing that exposes underwear or that exposes parts of the body in an indecent or vulgar manner.”
In the âAll Studentsâ section, it says: âTank tops and shirts are not acceptable except in physical education classes. “
The girls’ section says girls can’t wear skirts shorter than four inches from the top of the knee. He also says, “Disclosing clothes, pajamas and lingerie are not acceptable. Underwear should not be exposed. Hair curlers and excessive makeup are not allowed.”
While the dress code for girls and boys has three entries each, the list of rules for boys is shorter. The rules for boys include âBoys pants / trousers must be worn at the waist. No boxer shorts or underwear should be visible. Mustaches and beards must be carefully trimmed â. Pajamas and revealing clothing are not permitted.
The district dress code also prohibits clothing that displays “profanity, violence, discriminatory messages, sexually suggestive phrases, advertisements, phrases or symbols of alcohol, tobacco or drugs.”
SOME PARENTS SAY THE DRESS CODE IS PASSED
Fabre and a few other parents are asking for a change in the neighborhood dress code.
âIt’s archaic,â Fabre said. She referred to the dress code talking about the fact that students were not allowed to wear culottes. âI mean, it’s 2021,â she said.
âIt should be equal across the board,â Fabre said. “There has to be a systematic change in the dress code.”
Adrian Bartlett, another parent who hopes the school will change the dress code, said his daughter, Brooke, 15, also noticed that her phone book photo had been altered.
âYou tell my daughter that she should be ashamed of that part of her body, that she should cover it up,â Bartlett said. “I think that’s the completely wrong message to give to young teenage girls who are already going through the era of body shame and trying to understand themselves and then be comfortable with themselves.”
Brooke, whose last name her mother asked not to be used, has struggled with mental health and body image issues, and the pandemic has made things more difficult, her mother said.
Her daughter has been hospitalized and is undergoing treatment for mental health issues, Bartlett said. Brooke has come a long way and only recently started to feel comfortable wearing clothes to school that weren’t loose sweatshirts, she said.
âIn Florida, it’s hot 90 percent of the year here,â Bartlett said. âBut over the past couple of years we’ve seen a lot of our kids wear these big, loose sweatshirts 24/7, whether it’s winter or summer.”
While Brooke initially scoffed at Photoshop’s terrible tweak to her portrait, her mother worried about what it might do for teens in the long run, Bartlett said.
âI’m worried about some of these other kids who might not be handling it as well as Brooke is and how it could be really damaging to their mental health in the long run,â she said. “It’s mental health awareness, and they totally botched that for all of these kids.”
Bartlett, like Fabre, finds the school dress code too strict for girls, she said. She found that it was difficult to find clothes that conformed to the dress code and when her daughter finds something, she doesn’t always feel right there, Bartlett said.
âIt affects their self-esteem and creates even more bodily issues,â she said. “There has to be some kind of middle ground where our girls can feel comfortable going to school, feeling confident, but still appropriate.”
SOME STUDENTS MAKE THE DRESS CODE PROTECT MEN
The inequity between dress codes for boys and girls is something some students and their parents want to correct.
âI really hope the school takes a long look at how everyone views women’s bodies and takes a leadership role in trying to change that view,â O’Keefe said.
The problem also goes beyond the dress code, O’Keefe said.
âIt’s also the way people see our bodies,â she said. âFor example, if a girl has a smaller breast compared to a girl who has a larger breast, the girl with a larger breast is much more likely to have a dress code and that’s not fair. should be able to wear the same shirts, the same clothes and don’t be afraid of being dress code. “
Bartlett agreed, noting that it sends “the wrong message.”
âWe tell our daughters to cover up and dress modestly to protect the boys,â she said. “I think that’s the wrong message. Everyone should be responsible for themselves and our girls so that they can dress comfortably, with respect.”
Parents aren’t just looking for excuses, they want lasting change that will benefit students in the future, Fabre said.
âEveryone makes it seem like all we’re looking for is an apology,â Fabre said. “While this is absolutely 100% necessary, the bottom line here is that there is a systematic change in the dress code and consistency in how it is enforced.”
In addition to changing the dress code, O’Keefe said she hopes the school will educate staff and male students.
âI hope they teach the boys that there is nothing wrong with our bodies,â she said. “It’s natural, just like theirs. There is no reason why our bodies should be censored and theirs is fine.”
Fabre said she and other parents attended a school board workshop on Tuesday, where the school’s code of conduct was discussed.
Changes have been proposed to the code of conduct for students, which include changes to the dress code, Langston said on Tuesday.
“There has been quite a bit of public comment,” she said. The school board president said he wanted a “committee to be struck to review the dress code as a whole,” Langston said.
Langston told CNN that no action is taken at the workshops, only at the school board meetings that take place on the second Tuesday of each month. A vote is scheduled on the code of conduct for June 8.
âThe code of conduct for students has a part on the dress code and there are a few revisions this year,â Langston said. “Each year, the student code of conduct is revised at this time of year.”
The school is offering a full refund to parents who contact the school about the directory issue, Langston said. Directories that are heavily written will only receive a partial refund.