ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Action News Jax’s Ben Ryan continues to follow the controversy surrounding digitally altered yearbook photos of some students at Bartram Trail High School. Watch the latest on the investigation TODAY on FOX30 and CBS47.
June 2, 2021:
Action News Jax has learned that emails were sent to parents saying the school is issuing new yearbooks to those who want them.
The email states that the school is asking those interested in getting a new yearbook to return their old one and fill out a form by June 11.
Herff Jones, the yearbook company, is reprinting the yearbooks at no cost to the school, district or parents.
Dove, the soap brand, has offered to do the same thing but school declined because Herff Jones is already the vendor and has the prints, so, they will to do the actual reprinting.
May 25, 2021:
The St. Johns County School District is reviewing recommendations to its dress code policy following an Action News Jax Investigation that revealed 80 girls at Bartram Trail High School had their yearbook photos edited after they were deemed “inappropriate.”
Two of the students who had their photos edited, Riley O’Keefe and Zoe Iannone, wore the same outfits that they wore on picture day at a district workshop on Tuesday.
Zoe said she was targeted because she’s a girl and “because of your sexist policies.”
May 24, 2021:
Evening update: Families of the girls whose photos were altered in a local high school’s yearbook said the superintendent’s apology is a step in the right direction.
But they would really like to see change.
“I would like the school to make modifications to the dress code and keep it more fair,” Bartram Trail sophomore Liz McCurdy said. “I’m also hoping that this whole situation takes a step to changing people’s perspective on women and girls and their bodies.”
Afternoon update: Action News Jax’s Ben Ryan spoke to St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson. He said, “It was never the intent to embarrass or harm any of those students.”
May 21, 2021:
Evening Update: The St. Johns County School District confirmed with Action News Jax reporter Ben Ryan, that a total of 80 Bartram Trail high school yearbook pictures were edited.
All of them were girls.
Action News Jax Ben Ryan has requested interviews with the superintendent, the principal, the person who did the editing, and a member of the yearbook committee – he was told “No one is available for an interview.”
The district said the yearbook photos must follow dress code guidelines and they deemed the 80 pictures inappropriate. Since then, the school district told Action News Jax it was a female yearbook teacher who made that decision.
After constant efforts, no officials have spoken up, while the ninth-grade students are speaking out for change.
Ninth-grade student Riley O’Keefe said it’s now much bigger than a yearbook photo, and the double-standard needs to be left in the past.
“The double standard in the yearbook is more so they looked at our body and thought just a little bit of skin showing is sexual,” O’Keefe said. “They looked at the boys, for the swim team photos and other sports photos and thought that was fine, and that’s really upsetting and uncomfortable.”
Embarrassed, ashamed and sexualized are the most common term the students used when describing how they felt.
Before-and-after photos of several other ninth-grade girls at Bartram Trail High School show the clear edits and they’re demanding change.
“I don’t know who is on the staff. I don’t know if its male or female, either way it’s still not okay,” ninth-grader Zoe Iannone said. “They open up the yearbook, saw pictures and that was the first thing they worried about. It was unfair and I was horrified, I was disgusted.”
Action News Jax stopped at both the high school and administration building; the person working at the front desk told our reporter they were in meetings all day and nobody could answer the questions.
One mother who has a tenth-grade daughter at the school told us she is for the dress code and the edits.
“If parents aren’t teaching at home how daughters should dress and dress decently, then the school has to parent,” said Rachel D’aquin.
O’Keefe says no matter people say, she will continue to advocate for herself and others.
“The dress code and sexualization of young girls’ bodies has been happening for a long time,” she said. “All the messages I get about people being thankful for me speaking out are worth it, and I’d do it a million times.”
The school said they will refund parents who complain about the issue.
Noon Update: An Action News Jax investigation has uncovered that Bartram Trail High School altered 80 yearbook pictures of students that the school deemed inappropriate.
All of them were pictures of girls, a spokesperson for St. Johns County Schools said.
Action News Jax’s Ben Ryan has requested interviews with the county’s superintendent, the school’s principal, the person who did the edits, the person who made the final decision and a member of the yearbook committee.
He was told that no one was available for an interview.
Tonight, Action News Jax will look into the specific’s of the school’s dress code policies and if boys were affected as girls.
Original Story from May 20, 2021:
Before and after yearbook photos taken of Bartram Trail High School 9th grade high school student Riley O’Keefe show clearly edited photos. It was deemed inappropriate by the school and photoshopped in the printed edition.
“You’re not only affecting their photo, it’s not just for protecting them, you’re making them uncomfortable and feel like their bodies aren’t acceptable in a yearbook,” O’Keefe said.
The 9th grader said she wore the same exact outfit to the office and they told her it was fine. After seeing the yearbook picture, she felt uncomfortable, but wanted to speak up and push for change.
“I don’t want girls to feel like they don’t have a voice,” she said. “Especially girls who aren’t, don’t feel comfortable coming and speaking about it.”
Action News Jax reached out to the school district for answers and was sent the following statement:
“Bartram Trail High School’s previous procedure was to not include student pictures in the yearbook that they deemed in violation of the student code of conduct, so the digital alterations were a solution to make sure all students were included in the yearbook. At this point the school is offering refunds to any parents calling about this issue. The school is receiving feedback from parents/guardians/students on making this process better for next year.”
O’Keefe isn’t the only student this happened to. Action News Jax spoke with several parents and students who said they’re dealing with the same issue. Some said over 60 photos were photoshopped.
“I felt confident that day and I looked good, in dress code,” 9th grader Zoe Iannone said. “When I sent it to my mom and all of us saw it, I felt very sexualized, like that was what they were worrying about.”
The school said it is offering to refund parents’ yearbook money over the photoshopped pictures. One mother who didn’t want her identity shared said a refund doesn’t cut it.
“Our daughters of Bartram deserve an apology,” the mother said. “They are making them feel embarrassed about who they are.”
Both parents and students told Action News Jax they understand what they were trying to do, but they say it backfired, and they overreached.
Cox Media Group