At Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns County, Florida, photos of at least 80 female students had been digitally edited to hide their chests. The school superintendent explains there was “no intent to embarrass or shame them” for the “clothes they wore,” according to The New York Times.
That day, there were rumors going around the school that photos had been altered, said freshman Riley O’Keefe. When her mother finally got a copy, she opened the page to her daughter’s photo to find that her image had indeed been altered. She told The New York Times that a “black bar had been placed to cover her daughter’s chest.”
What’s even more troubling, as Ms. O’Keefe went through the pages she discovered dozens of other female–and only female–students’ photos had been altered to cover up their chests. Some of them were labeled as “clumsy alterations.”
Other girls reached out to Ms. O’Keefe and said that the alterations made them feel “sexualized and exposed.” According to The New York Times, the altered photos were part of a “series of crackdowns” used by the administration in an attempt to “police” what girls wear.
On Saturday, numerous parents and students demanded an apology. The superintendent replied saying there wasn’t a “sufficient review of the steps taken before the decision was made to edit some student pictures.”
He continued saying that there was no intent to “embarrass or shame any student for the clothes that they wear.” However, the public high school website defends the edits saying that the yearbook photos “must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted.”
According to The New York Times, shirts must be “modest and not revealing or distracting.”
“They’re all good students, and we’re going to focus on whether you have too much shoulder showing? It’s out of control,” Ms O’Keefe said.
District spokesperson Christina Langston told The St. Augustine Record that the teacher serving as the yearbook coordinator had made the edits. She told The Record that Bartram Trail High School’s previous procedure was to not include students’ pictures in the yearbook that were “deemed in violation of the student code of conduct.” The digital alterations were “a solution” to make sure “all students were included in the yearbook.”
Spokesperson Langston says the school was offering refunds and they were “receiving feedback from parents, guardians, and students on making this process better for next year.”
Back in March, administrators stood in the hallways to call out girls or take them out of class for violating the dress code. One male teacher called out a girl who wore a zip up sweater over a bra and was ordered to remove the jacket and wear the shirt that the school officials gave her, says Ms. O’Keefe.
The next day, boys protested alongside the girls by wearing dresses and skirts . None of these boys were disciplined.
After this incident, Ms. O’Keefe started an online petition to change the dress code, which already has nearly 6,000 signatures.