Why Students Are Rallying Behind a Girl and Her Tuxedo

Update: Sacred Heart has issued a formal apology to Jessica and her parents, Tony and Ana Urbina, and have said that Jessica's photo will indeed appear in the school yearbook. The letter, co-authored by John F. Scudder Jr. (the school's president) and Gary Cannon (the principal), was published on Sacred Heart's website and also addressed concerns from gay and lesbian alumni: "While we believe SHC to be a safe and supportive environment for all, this situation has reminded us that we still have much growth to achieve. While many gay and lesbian alumni and students have commented on the inclusive, supportive aspect of our school community, others have remarked on some prejudice that still exists. As a school, we must better learn how to support our students who are navigating issues of gender identity."

Like many high school students across America, Jessica Urbina wanted to look her best when she posed for her senior yearbook photo. For Urbina, that meant wearing a tuxedo. However, her high school — San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School — told her that her picture would not appear in the yearbook because it violated a policy on "required dress for female students."

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Jessica's brother, Michael Urbina, a budding activist, didn't take his sister's yearbook rejection lightly. He started a grassroots campaign, #JessicasTux, asking other high schoolers to wear bow ties to school last Friday, and then post pictures on Twitter and Instagram. The campaign took off, and soon Jessica had thousands of supporters from around the country. 

"I've seen all these people with all the ties. Honestly, I've cried multiple times. I'm overwhelmed with all the support," Jessica told the local San Francisco NBC affiliate. 

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However, Sacred Heart is far from the first school to deal with controversy in their yearbook. Last year, a transgendered student named Jeydon Loredo, who was born female but identifies as male, wore a tuxedo for his yearbook picture, but was told to either wear "feminine attire" or not be included at all. Loredo and his family sued and the high school reversed its original decision, allowing Loredo's picture to appear.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a teen mom whose senior photo included her infant son was told that she would have to take a solo picture or be cut out of the yearbook. Caitlin Tiller says that she was told her photo promoted teen pregnancy, but she disagreed, saying that her photo showed young mothers that they were not alone. A high school in Michigan had a similar issue, banning pregnant students from showing their bellies in yearbook photos. Several students said that they had to retake their pictures in order to conceal their stomachs.

Sacred Heart maintains that their policy was not designed to hurt anyone. A press representative from the school directed Yahoo to an open letter entitled "A Message to the Greater SHC Community" on their official website:

"SHC’s yearbook is an official school publication and decisions regarding its contents are made by the school administration. While not all are in the portrait pages, each of our 286 seniors are represented with photographs throughout the yearbook. In addition, all seniors will be represented equally at SHC graduation festivities. These events have sparked a campuswide dialogue which will result in a revision of policy."

The note continued, "Our students have risen in support of each other and the principles central to our community. We are proud of their leadership and thoughtful effort to affect change."

For now, the school says Jessica's picture "may" appear in the final version of their yearbook. But thanks to social media, the whole world now knows what she looks like in her tux.

 

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