A Florida High School Altered Female Students’ Photos to Be “Modest"

·4 min read
Yearbook
Yearbook

Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times, Getty Images

It's already a pretty well-known fact that many school dress codes around the country are vastly outdated and sexist, aiming the harshest rules at girls far more often than boys. And now, one school is really taking it to the next level.

A high school in Florida is coming under fire for editing female students' yearbook photos to be more "modest" without also altering any of the male students' photos.

As The New York Times reported on May 24th, the school in question, Bartram Trail High School near Jacksonville, Florida, applied these changes to at least 80 girls' pictures to hide their chests and even their shoulders—as if everyone doesn't have chests and shoulders—and it sounds like the photoshopping wasn't even good.

Ninth grader Riley O'Keefe was one of the students whose photo was altered, and it's her photo that's gone viral in this mess. The 15-year-old told The New York Times, "[The school staff] need to recognize that it's making girls feel ashamed of their bodies."

As of May 24th, school district superintendent, Tim Forson, said there was "not sufficient review of the steps taken before the decision was made to edit some student pictures," according to The New York Times, adding that it was "disappointing" to be in this situation.

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However, on May 25th, O'Keefe and another student whose photo was altered, Zoe Iannone, appeared in front of the school board wearing the same outfits from their school photos to demand a change to the dress code and an explanation for what happened. Iannone said to the group in attendance, "I was targeted because I'm a girl. I was targeted because of your sexist policies."

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Christine Langston, a spokeswoman for the district, told the St. Augustine Record previously that the edits were made by a teacher because the girls were in violation of the extremely strict dress code rules including not wearing shirts that are "modest and not revealing or distracting" and not covering their entire shoulder.

What's even more troubling is that, according to the Washington Post, in years past, students who violated the school's strict dress code on picture day were completely left out of the yearbook. It's unclear whether or not the students were properly notified before being left out of the yearbook.

Understandably, both students and parents are outraged over the current yearbook situation, with many demanding that the school reprint the book without the edits, but the larger issue is the dress code itself, which targets girls. The New York Times even reported that those who saw the yearbook pointed out that not only were no boys' photos altered, but not even photos of the boys' swim team—wearing Speedos—were changed.

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When it comes to all the ways this is messed up beyond the very obvious sexism and shaming, there are so many other issues at play. Not only did none of these girls consent to the editing, but these extreme measures only serve to sexualize young women's bodies.

The message Bartram High School is sending by editing these photos is incredibly dangerous—not just to the girls whose photos were edited, but also to the boys whose photos were left alone, practically making them untouchable by rules that don't apply to them.

At the May 25th school board meeting where the students spoke, school officials came to a tentative agreement that a change needs to be made to the dress code that better fits all students, according to local news reporter Ben Ryan, who was in attendance.

It's incredibly unfortunate that in 2021, the message is still being sent to teenage girls that their clothes are the problem, rather than teaching teenage boys how to be respectful. It's time we really learn that women aren't responsible for men's actions because of what they're wearing.