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Utah school defends yearbook editing for modesty

Published May 29, 2014 3:07 pm

Censors • While mistakes were made, the high school says, students were warned that the editing would occur if they violated dress code.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Heber City • Wasatch High School acknowledged Thursday that its yearbook staff made some mistakes in its "graphic corrections" of student photos, which were edited to add sleeves and higher necklines.

In a message on the school's website, the high school said the staffers "were not consistent in how they [corrections] were applied to student photos and the school apologizes for that inconsistency."

The Heber City school and Wasatch County School District are reevaluating the practice of photo editing, the message said.

But the statement notes students were warned, by way of a 4-foot-by-5-foot sign at the fall photo session, that their yearbook photos might be edited if their clothing did not conform to school standards.

Principal Shawn Kelly declined to comment further Thursday. "That's our statement. That's our stance," he said. School officials did not allow a reporter on campus Thursday.

Several female students said Wednesday said they were shocked to open their yearbooks this week to find their clothing altered.

One girl, sophomore Shelby Baum, found her tattoo, which meets the school's standard for tattoos, erased in her yearbook picture. Her tattoo reads, "I am enough the way I am." Her v-neck shirt was edited to show a straight line across her chest.

The girls noted, too, that the photo editing was selective. Photos of other girls wearing almost identical clothing were not edited at all.

And some of the clothing edited to be more modest apparently meets the schools dress code, the girls said, because they have worn the same clothes to school on other occasions without an issue.

In its statement, the high school said it learned Wednesday that "a few" students are upset.

The school said the sign during photo sessions last fall told students that school dress standards would be enforced.

"Tank tops, low cut tops, inappropriate slogans on shirts, etc. would not be allowed. If a student violated this policy, the sign told them explicitly that the photos may be edited to correct the violation. The sign was plainly visible to all students who were having their photos taken," the statement said.

In their excitement to receive their yearbooks, "it is understandable that students in violation of the dress code could forget that they received warnings about inappropriate dress," the statement said.

"However, there is no question that all students were advised that photos may be edited if the student's dress did not follow the dress code."

Bobbi Jo Wilkerson-Westergard, Baum's mother, said she accompanied each of her children for their photo sessions during registration last fall and did not see any warning sign — large or small — about photo editing.

"There wasn't anything there," Wilkerson-Westergard said. "They could have told them that day, 'You're not following dress code.' Then they could have changed clothes. They could have given other options than editing, which they didn't learn about until the end of the year."

The dress code posted on the district's website, which Kelly referred a reporter to, says that clothing must be "modest, neat, clean and in good repair."

"Modesty includes covering shoulders, midriff, back, underwear and cleavage at all times," the policy states.

The policy allows tattoos as long as they are not so "conspicuous, extreme or odd" that they draw undue attention or disrupt the learning atmosphere.

Students, however, noted that in practice, sleeveless tops are typically allowed.

Wilkerson-Westergard said it's commonly understood among students that they can wear sleeveless tops as long as the straps are at least two or three inches wide.

Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this report.

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: KristenMoulton