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Family Ponders Legal Action Over Senior Photo

Parents of a Colorado teenager are considering legal action against a school district because their daughter’s senior portrait has been banned from the school’s yearbook.

The yearbook’s editorial team claimed the portrait could “diminish the quality” of their award-winning yearbook. The student claims the school administration told her the editors rejected it violating dress code, and complains the decision violates her freedom of expression.

This is the kind of story that royally ticks me off. With all of the problems our schools are facing, with all of the scraping by our teachers have to do to make a difference, we’re focusing attention on “freedom of expression” in a photo?

Why, yes, something is wrong with this picture.

The photo shows the blonde girl posing on a staircase wearing a short yellow shirt and a black off-shoulder shawl. You can see the photo for yourself here. The person that I am most reminded of when I look at the picture is Lady Gaga, although I’m in no way a Lady Gaga fan.

ABC News reports that five student editors rejected the photo as her official senior portrait, but told her she could use the photo elsewhere in the book as her senior ad. (What is a senior ad? Did you have senior ads in your yearbook, or did I miss something in mine?)

The family told local media, ABC says, that they were planning to meet with a civil lawyer to discuss options.

I have no idea — the report doesn’t mention — what this student’s grades happen to be. I don’t know how test scores are at Durango High School.

I do know that the school has the right to determine what it feels is and isn’t appropriate in a school yearbook, and that it makes no sense to take critical time away from the school’s purpose, educating students, with a legal battle.

We’re so eager to jump on a bandwagon when someone whines about losing their “freedom of expression” that we often miss bigger points.

I like the fact that students nowadays have the option (and availability) to produce their own portrait shoots. That, in itself, is a lot more freedom than we had when I was in high school. My senior portrait was taken with me wearing the same tux all of the other guys wore.

But students still have to operate within the rules. Her education doesn’t depend on her being in the yearbook. Her future doesn’t depend on whether that photo runs as her “official” senior portrait.

It seems to me that this school needs to do a few lessons on choosing one’s battle. That might have avoided the whole mess to begin with.

What about you? Do you think the photo is appropriate? Would you allow your daughter to do such a pose?


  1. The picture isn’t really what I would call racy, but it’s still inappropriate for a high school yearbook. Furthermore, I think it’s ridiculous how much abuse the whole notion of freedom of expression gets these days.

  2. I wouldn’t have allowed my daughter to pose that way for a senior portrait, but that’s just my personal opinion.

    Where I went to school, our official yearbook photo had to be a head and shoulders shot. Her photo would not have qualified. I’m surprised there isn’t such a rule at this school. Perhaps they need to add a few set rules…

    That aside, I’m positive that she did not have just one photo taken. She probably has several with at least two changes of clothing. I don’t understand why they don’t just use another photo for her official photo and place this one in a senior ad if they want. I really don’t understand the big deal.

  3. I agree with you 100%. I would be surprised if DHS doesn’t have a dress code for senior pictures, but if they don’t have one now, I betcha they will by summer!

    We did have senior ads. Usually, they consist of parents saying congrats to their kid, sometimes with a childhood or baby photo. It’s a way for the yearbook staff to bring the cost down a bit and allows those parents who feel the need to be [overly] involved a place to do that.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.