ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The Bartram Trail High School yearbook coordinator made the decision to alter 80 photos of female students that appeared in the school’s yearbook, the district confirmed Friday.
Anne Irwin, an employee of the school, had the final say of what went into the yearbook and was in charge of the adjustments of the photos, the district said.
Irwin made her decisions based on the dress code in the district’s student code of conduct, according to the district. But students said they were shocked to see the changes when they received the $100 yearbook on Wednesday.
“I am sure there are many different opinions on whether they were or were not [in violation of the school’s dress code],” a district spokesperson told News4Jax on Friday. “The dress code guidelines are in our student code of conduct, but enforcement of the dress code happens at the school level and differs from administration to administration.”
All of these photos appeared in the Bartram Trail HS yearbook, but only 1 was digitally altered because the yearbook coordinator believed it violated the student code of conduct. In total, 80 photos were "adjusted" in the yearbook, all featuring female students. #News4Jax @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/j1YCblxjjE— Joe McLean (@JoeMcLeanNews) May 21, 2021
The goal of the altered photos appeared to be to make the students’ clothing more modest, with changes that covered up the shoulders and chest areas of female students.
On Bartram Trail’s website, a disclaimer warns students their photos could be altered.
In a statement to News4Jax on Thursday, the district said the school’s previous procedure was to exclude student pictures in the yearbook that they deemed in violation of the student code of conduct and “the digital alterations were a solution to make sure all students were included in the yearbook.”
News4Jax has repeatedly requested interviews with the St. Johns County superintendent, Bartram Trail’s principal and the yearbook coordinator. None has yet been made available for an interview.
News4Jax reviewed the yearbook and found shirtless photos of male students and other photos showing the shoulders of female students, but it appeared that only portrait photos were altered by Irwin.
Riley O’Keefe, a freshman at Bartram Trail High School, said when she got ahold of the yearbook Wednesday she noticed something different about her photo.
“There’s a black box over my chest and the cardigan on the side is like moved over and it looks really awkward and I was very confused,” O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe said she honestly thought her outfit was not in violation of the policy as she was never approached about it and even had what she was wearing on photo day cleared by the office.
“It made me feel a little uncomfortable that that’s what they noticed when they looked at our pictures,” she said.
For parents like Adrian Bartlett, that enforcement can be concerning. Her daughters photo (shown at the top of this story, was one of the photos that was altered after the fact
“It was a little sad, a little worrisome because my daughter has struggled with mental health and self-esteem and body issues and even resulted in a couple of hospitalizations this year because of that. So this is just one more thing that could be super detrimental to these young minds. So it’s, it’s scary,” she said.
“Tops and shirts must cover the entire shoulder and they must be modest and not revealing or distracting,” according to the district’s dress code. “Midriff or ‘cutout’ dresses and ‘cut out’ tops may not be worn. Extremely short skirts are not allowed. Skirts must be no shorter than four inches (4″) above the top of the knee. Revealing clothing, pajamas and lingerie are not acceptable.”
The principals or designees will determine the appropriateness of attire, the code of conduct states.
The school also came under fire in March after teen girls said they were taken out of class and sent to the dean’s office to change clothes or face suspension. The incidents sparked an online petition created by students calling for change, which had more than 4,000 signatures.
News4Jax found the number of recorded violations of the St. Johns County School District’s student dress code has skyrocketed during the 2020-21 school year, according to data provided by the district.
Across the district, 78% of dress code violations go to female students.