The families of teenage girls whose photos were altered in their high school yearbook are speaking out.
First-year students Zoe Iannone and Riley O’Keefe are among the minimum of 80 girls whose pictures were digitally edited to show less skin in the yearbook at Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns County, which is near Jacksonville, Florida.
“The initial reaction is to be surprised and shocked, and then as it goes on, you just feel gross and embarrassed and very objectified,” Zoe told TODAY.
The girls were hardly alone in learning their pictures, which were edited to cover their chests, had been changed.
“I got very upset, and I was very uncomfortable that that's how they were looking at our photos,” Riley said.
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At least 80 photos — all featuring female students deemed to have violated the dress code — were edited. Riley and Zoe’s mothers said the school did not contact them about the changes prior to the yearbook coming out and were later informed the modifications were done as part of “modesty editing.”
“All images in ads and all individual student pictures must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted,” reads a message on the school’s website.
The school district outlines in its dress code policy that “personal attire may be in the style of the day, but clothing that is immodest, revealing or distracting in character is unacceptable.”
Both Zoe and Riley said they were surprised their wardrobes were deemed inappropriate. Zoe told TODAY she did not receive a dress code violation that day, nor on days prior when she wore the same outfit. Riley said she purposely chose her particular shirt because she wore it "150 times" and "knew it was a safe choice."
A yearbook coordinator who is a teacher had determined which photos to alter, Christina Langston, a spokesperson for the school district, told TODAY.
"Bartram Trail High School’s previous procedure was to not include student pictures in the yearbook that (it) 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," she added.
The school is offering refunds to families upset about the photos, Langston said. So far, no refunds have been requested.
Several parents of the girls expressed their distress when reached by TODAY.
“Immediately, my blood started to boil,” Riley’s mother, Stephanie, said. “They felt like they'd done something wrong. It felt like their bodies were being shamed, and they were embarrassed.”
"Basically, now their body parts are of additional focus and attention that never would've been there in the first place if the school hadn't called attention to it," Zoe's mother, Amanda Emery, said.
Lindsey Tenney, whose daughter Isabella is a ninth grader, said she was particularly upset by the poor editing on her daughter's photo.
"With most of the edits I've seen, and I've seen quite a bit, there was at least some attempt to make the edit look like it wasn't an edit and blend it in," she said. "But with my daughter, hers is the worst that I've seen. It's literally a square block on her chest."
Riley said she is still upset over the school’s action.
“When the school goes and edits out my cleavage in a photo but decides that a swim team photo's OK in Speedos, it sends the message that my body is inappropriate — that my body is, there's something wrong with it,” she said.
“I think an apology is a huge thing that needs to happen. I think in long term the view of girls' bodies and young women's bodies and the dress code based on that needs to change,” she added.