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80 female students’ yearbook photos altered over alleged dress code violations

Published: May. 23, 2021 at 6:06 AM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 6:07 AM EDT
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. (WFOX/WJAX) - A Florida high school is being criticized for altering 80 yearbook photos of female students that it deemed “inappropriate” and not in line with dress code. Students say the incident made them feel uncomfortable and sexualized.

Riley O’Keefe, a 9th grade student at Bartram Trail High School, says her yearbook photo was deemed inappropriate by the school and photoshopped in the printed edition. Her photo wasn’t the only one – 79 other female students had their photos altered as well.

Several, including O’Keefe, had their chests covered. Others had their shoulders covered.

Riley O’Keefe, a 9th grader, says her yearbook photo was deemed inappropriate by the school and...
Riley O’Keefe, a 9th grader, says her yearbook photo was deemed inappropriate by the school and photoshopped in the printed edition to cover her chest. She says the changes made her feel uncomfortable and like her body wasn't acceptable.(Source: WFOX/WJAX via CNN)

“You’re not only affecting their photo. It’s not just protecting them. You’re making them uncomfortable and feel like their bodies aren’t acceptable in a yearbook,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe says she wore the exact same outfit from her picture to the office, and they told her it was fine.

After seeing the altered yearbook picture, O’Keefe felt uncomfortable but wanted to speak up and push for change.

“I don’t want girls to feel like they don’t have a voice, especially girls who don’t feel comfortable coming and speaking about it,” she said.

Embarrassed, ashamed and sexualized are the most common terms the affected students used when describing how they felt.

“I felt confident that day and like I looked good. I was in dress code, and then, when I sent it to my mom and all of us saw it, I felt very sexualized, like that was what they were worrying about,” said Zoe Iannone, a 9th grader whose photo was altered to cover her chest.

Zoe Iannone, a 9th grader, says her photo was altered to cover her chest, and the change made...
Zoe Iannone, a 9th grader, says her photo was altered to cover her chest, and the change made her feel "sexualized."(Source: WFOX/WJAX via CNN)

The St. Johns County School District says the high school’s previous procedure was to not include student yearbook pictures that were deemed “in violation of the student code of conduct,” so the digital alterations were made to make sure all students could be included in the yearbook.

The school district says it was a female yearbook teacher who made the decision.

The school says it is offering to refund parents’ yearbook money over the photoshopped pictures, but one mother who didn’t want her identity shared says a refund doesn’t cut it.

“Our daughters of Bartram deserve an apology. They are making them feel embarrassed about who they are,” she said.

Both parents and students say they understand what the school officials were trying to do, but they say they overreached, causing the effort to backfire.

Copyright 2021 WFOX/WJAX via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.