Yearbook Controversy After 17 Special-Needs Students Left Out

Beth Greenfield
·Senior Editor

A shift in policy has left 17 special-needs students out of a Utah high school yearbook, causing hurt feelings for at least one parent and defensiveness from the school administration.  

“It’s kind of like they singled out the students who were in the transition program and said, ‘We don’t want you in our yearbook,” Leslee Bailey, the mother of 21-year-old Amber Bailey, who has Down syndrome and whose photo was left out of the Blue Peak High School yearbook, told KTVU. “It doesn’t just matter because I love her and I want the best for her. It bothers me because it seems [the school has] gone back in time to where they’re not including them, and we are going to tuck them away and say ‘no, they don’t exist.’”

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But the Tooele County School District strongly disagrees. “The adult students have already graduated high school — she’s not a Blue Peak student,” superintendent Scott Rogers tells Yahoo Parenting. “We work with them to get them job placements, and so to suggest that they’re being left out is completely and absolutely erroneous.”

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Amber and the other special-needs young adults attend an adult transitional learning center, which is one of four schools, including the high school, housed in one building, Rogers explains. In years past, the students at that learning center had been included on a page in the high school yearbook, but they were left out this year due do a policy change, as the Blue Peak students don’t help with tutoring at the learning center as they had in the past.

“So they weren’t excluded,” Rogers says. “It was an odd fit anyway.” Now the 17 students appear in their own “digital yearbook,” he says, noting that Amber’s mom was the only parent to complain about the situation.

Last week, another group of students felt slighted after being left out of their yearbook: teen moms at Santa Fe High School, in New Mexico, whose traditional moms-and-babies page was omitted from the yearbook this year without warning, also because of a policy change. “It was somewhat hurtful,” senior Naomi Roque told KOAT, noting that photos were something she and other teen moms looked forward to each year. “That’s an opportunity for us to look back and show our kids this time that we’re going through.”

In this latest case, it’s clear that Leslee felt slighted on behalf of her daughter, possibly because there was no warning issued about the policy change before she saw the yearbook.

Because of that, Rogers did acknowledge the school’s approach. “We will learn from this,” he says. “It certainly could have been handled more delicately.”

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