Teen Labeled 'Freak' in Yearbook Amounts to Bullying, Says Mom

After mysteriously being labeled “freak” in a high-school yearbook photo caption, a Georgia teen’s mom wants the school held accountable for bullying—and the yearbooks destroyed and reprinted.

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“There’s no way to fix this issue. It’s in the book, printed in ink,” a visibly upset Susan Powell told Fox 5 Atlanta regarding what appears to be a cruel joke on her son, Dylan Worthen, a freshman trumpet player at South Paulding High School. In the offending caption, under a school band photo, her son’s name appears as “Dylan Worthen-Freak.”

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More than 900 copies of the yearbook, called "Bold," have just been printed.

“We have not yet determined the person responsible,” Brian Otott, associate superintendent for the Paulding County School District, told Yahoo! Shine. But, he said, “This is a very serious matter, because we’re talking about kids here. We apologized to the family and wish it hadn’t happened. It’s so unfortunate that it did.” He added, "To the best of my knowledge, we don't have any information that the student had been bullied at South Paulding High School."

Though Powell has requested the yearbooks be destroyed and reprinted, that would be a challenge, Otott said, as copies were distributed over a week ago, and have already been signed by each other’s peers. But after contacting the yearbook vendor, he added, the school was provided with “replacement text” in sticker form, which will be placed in yearbooks brought in by students in a manner that will be “coordinated at the school level.”

Powell, though, said that the damage had been done. “This is something that my child will live with for the rest of his life,” she told WSBTV. “His high school freshman yearbook has him labeled as a freak.”

She added, “He’s my son that I think the world of, and he is in no way any kind of freak. He has the biggest heart of any 16-year-old child I know.”

Powell is right to speak out and demand the yearbooks be reprinted, says Ross Ellis, CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, an educational advocacy campaign for kids. "Her kid is going to go through life with this," she told Yahoo! Shine, and putting stickers over the word "is not enough."

Though Ellis would not exactly call the incident bullying, which she defines as "consistent harassment," this kind of prank can be hurtful. "It's not a joke," she says.  

Worthen, for his part, seems to be taking it all in stride. “I’m just going to act like it never happened,” he said. “If anyone says something to me, I’m going to ignore it.”

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