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Students say altered yearbook photos meant to shame them

Published May 30, 2014 11:10 am

Wasatch High • Bare shoulders covered, necklines moved up for some.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

A group of female high school students in Wasatch County say their school took "modesty" standards too far when their yearbook photos were digitally altered to cover up skin.

Several girls at Wasatch High School opened their yearbooks this week to find sleeves and higher necklines drawn onto their images — in some cases haphazardly, they said.

"I was shocked," said sophomore Kimberly Montoya, whose sleeveless blouse appeared in the yearbook with short sleeves added.

Sophomore Shelby Baum found a square neckline drawn over her v-neck tee, and her collarbone tattoo was erased from the photo.

The tattoo is a simple line of script Baum chose — after consulting the school dress code — to remind her of her journey out of difficult times during her childhood.

It reads, "I am enough the way I am."

"My tattoo was a huge thing in my life," Baum said, choking back tears. "I've come a long ways. My tattoo means a lot. It reminds me I am enough. For them to cover that up? They should inform me first. They never said anything to me."

District officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Baum said she raised the issue with high school administrators, who said the yearbook couldn't be changed after printing.

She didn't know whether the yearbook staff chose to edit the photos or were directed by school employees.

The standards for the photo edits didn't match the school's dress code, Montoya and Baum said. Both have worn their pictured tops to school many times, they said.

The photos also weren't edited consistently, Montoya and Baum said. Some girls had sleeves added to their shirts; others' tank tops were untouched.

Some necklines were moved up, while others were kept lower-cut. Two girls wore identical vests, Montoya said; one photo was edited to show a shoulder-covering undershirt while the other appeared bare-armed. Baum and Montoya personally know seven girls whose pictures were changed, but other photos are edited with little subtlety; while modifying one girl's shirt, a photo editor removed part of her hair and then apparently tried to draw it back on, creating a bushy pouf at chest level.

Montoya said the retouched photos reflect a school culture where modesty standards are wielded to "humiliate" girls. She recalled being accused of wearing an immodest skirt, bought at Forever 21.

Another girl wore the same skirt without reprimand, while Montoya was ordered to change into sweatpants emblazoned with the words, "I support Wasatch High dress code."

"You walk around all day in the sweats, and it's all eyes on you," Montoya said.

"People know you got dress-coded, that something about you was immodest. They look at you like, 'You done wrong.' If my parents felt OK and I felt OK about [my clothes], it should have been fine. I know there should be restrictions, but [the school] pushes it to the limit. ... Every time I walk into that school, I feel judged."

Baum said drawing over girls' skin is insulting.

"I feel like they're trying to shame you of your body," Baum said.

"People wear [the same clothes] every day. But in the yearbook, they're trying to fix you."

ealberty@sltrib.com Twitter: @erinalberty