Yearbook Photos Edited To Cover Skin
SALT LAKE CITY - A group of Utah high school students said they were stunned and upset to discover their school yearbook photos were digitally altered, with sleeves and higher necklines drawn on to cover up bare skin.
Several students at Wasatch High School in Heber City say their outfits followed the public school's dress code and they've worn them on campus many times.
"I feel like they're trying to shame you of your body," said sophomore Shelby Baum, who discovered a high, square neckline was drawn on her black, V-neck T-shirt.
Baum told The Salt Lake Tribune she was upset to learn a tattoo on her collarbone was erased from her photo. She said she consulted the school dress code before getting the tattoo, a line of script that reads "I am enough the way I am."
"I was shocked," said Kimberly Montoya, a sophomore who found the sleeveless top she wore last fall was converted into a short-sleeved shirt.
Editing photos to meet modesty standards is humiliating for girls, Montoya and other students said. The students also say the standards weren't uniformly applied.
The Wasatch County School District said in a statement Thursday that students were warned when yearbook photos were taken last fall that images might be altered if students violated dress standards.
"When the yearbook comes out in the spring, students are always excited to see their pictures and are concerned with how they look in the yearbook, so it is understandable that students in violation of the dress code could forget that they received warnings about inappropriate dress," the statement said.
District officials apologized about the alterations not being uniformly applied and said they were evaluating the policy of altering photos in the future.
Superintendent Terry Shoemaker declined to comment further.
Baum and Montoya said they knew of at least seven other students whose photos were altered.
The Wasatch School District dress code uses the word modesty twice: "Clothing will be modest, neat, clean, in good repair. Modesty includes covering shoulders, midriff, back, underwear and cleavage at all times."
Most of the eight high schools in the Granite School District, one of the largest in the state, also ban bare shoulders, district spokesman Ben Horsley said.
Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Utah, slammed the altered photos.
"It is a keen example of how our culture, and especially those in power to make such random decisions, shame young women into thinking they must dress and act in one narrow, acceptable way," Mullen said in a statement.
Legally, schools have a lot of leeway with dress codes, and legal challenges usually are unsuccessful, said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. Schools open themselves up to problems when the policy is not being implemented uniformly or when kids are not given proper notice, he said.
The ACLU is not involved in this new dispute, but Mejia said the inconsistent altering of photos at Wasatch sounds troubling from a constitutional standpoint.