A high school in the United States caused a global stir after it went about altering the yearbook pictures of over 80 female students, covering up some of the girls’ chests with (poorly edited) black bars.
Bartram Trail High School in St John’s County, Florida, saw a female teacher edit the yearbook pictures to make them appear more “modest”, as per the BBC.
According to St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson, “It is disappointing to be addressing the student picture situation in the Bartram Trail High School Yearbook..Certainly, there has never been an intent to embarrass or shame any student for the clothes that they wear. Unfortunately, we are learning a valuable lesson in the importance of process and understanding that the intent is not always the result.”
The school is now facing global criticism as people are asking how the school thought it was acceptable to alter pictures that were adhering to dress codes.
Another argument formed around the existence of dress codes in the first place, which raised questions around why such rules only apply so strictly to female students.
The conversation of how some schools persist in over-sexualising young girls, policing and distorting their body images is another important topic brought to the table by responders.
One student in particular, Riley O’Keefe whose image graces this article’s feature, spoke most openly about the incident. O’Keefe said that the school’s dress code in itself is “clearly based on the sexualisation of young women.”
“I couldn’t believe that they printed the yearbook looking like that,” O’Keefe said to CNN. “And then I started to flip through the yearbook and saw more and more girls with their chest edited.”
The problems O’Keefe brought to light are that there are double standards, as no male students who were wearing scant clothing for school swimming pictures saw their photos edited.
Riley has created an online petition raising awareness for the sexism that situations like this exhibit, and asking for the relaxation of the dress code itself.
Riley’s mother told the BBC that the incident “drew attention to something that wasn’t a problem to begin with.”
According to Refinery29 who cites the New York Times, the female students felt “sexualized and exposed,” as a result of the editing. Students and families at the Bartram Trail school have continued to push back on the matter.
It’s part of a bigger social issue which is hypersexualising young girls. Matters like this breed insecurity especially toward body image. The incident exhibits a clear need for schools to rethink outdated policies which are proving to cause more damage than good.