No Grinning in the Yearbook! Kid’s Photo Deleted

This is just plain weird: A San Antonio girl who made a goofy, open-mouthed grin for her yearbook had her photo deleted by school officials who said, “No one should look happy in high school!

Well, that’s not what they actually said. They said the picture was inappropriate, yada yada yada, and that it was one handshake away from someone flashing a gang sign in a photo. Which, in a way, is even weirder.

I have no idea what this story represents in terms of larger cultural issues except that it is time for folks to chill.  The perfect parenting trend has expanded to perfect studenting, perfect schooling, perfect teachering, perfect yearbooking. It’s nice to aim high, of course, but it’s ridiculous to assume none of us can have a little fun or make a few mistakes.

Or, God forbid, grin.  — Lenore

49 Responses

  1. Watched the news clip, considering her personality it was pretty clear she was expressing herself in a positive way. It wasn’t any mocking or insulting to the school or the administration. It wasn’t like she was giving off the middle finger. I could see the argument of the school wanting to retake the picture, if it was instead to have more uniform ‘less candid’ photos in the listing of students. But they didn’t give that reason.

  2. What happens to the kids who are just naturally goofy looking?

  3. Shakes head in disbelief…
    I remember when I took my senior year ID photo (separate from our school photos). We went during our religion class (it was a Catholic school and I guess they determined religion was the least important class because it was when they scheduled all this stuff, lol) and my entire classroom decided to do silly faces for our IDs. It was hilarious. The first couple of girls went really wild and the photographer just shrugged. We were all sure they’d make us retake them and we’d get detention or something but nobody said anything.

    Not sure we would have gotten away with it for yearbook pictures. We had to actually dress up for those (no jeans, t-shirts, etc).

    As for the gang sign thing. That was probably the dumbest excuse I’ve ever heard. And plays down the real trouble inner city schools have with gangs. I grew up in a neighborhood where if you wore the wrong color or symbol you could get beat up or shot. All the public schools here have uniforms (navy bottoms and white collared shirts) to try and curb the problem but it does exist and is dangerous.
    When I was little there was a kid in my neighborhood who was beat up and left for dead over his sneakers in a gang initiation thing (steal the kids sneakers to get in the gang). He was like 9 or 10 and just walking home from the store.
    Smiling like a doofus is not a gang sign.

  4. This reminds me of a yearbook prank that was pulled when I was in high school. All students had their pictures taken during English class. One particular student who was enrolled in both Freshman English and Sophomore English (having failed Freshman English the year before) went to have his picture taken twice. He appears in the yearbook as Freshman Cliff Burton (the deceased bassist for Metallica) and as a Sophmore under his real name. I love that this kid was smart enough to work the system and that nobody noticed until after all the yearbooks were distributed. I was really jealous that I couldn’t ever think of anything that cool.

  5. There are a few goofy pictures in my old class photos. I use my 2nd grade school pic on my Facebook page.
    Although this is an extreme example of control, schools wanting only good looking photos is nothing new, my brother’s distinctive birthmark was airbrushed out of his photo. Ironically he is now a professional photographer.
    Many kids are unrecognizable all dressed up for their yearbook pictures from how we remember what they looked like when we saw them in class.
    If they want the pictures of the kids to all look the same, just use copies of one picture for all kids.

  6. This reminds me of 11th grade. Five or six kids wore sunglasses and their sweatshirts’ hoods up for yearbook photos that year. I didn’t even notice until I dug up my yearbooks a couple of years ago! The boys looked kinda like the Unabomber, come to think of it. But this was 1985-86, back when the only things the authorities were trying to crack down on was underage drinking.

  7. Sometimes the best, most natural photographs are the ones made with the goofy face!!!! How silly (and troubling) for a school to quash such an expressive individual.

  8. Oh for Ch—t’s sake! That is ridiculous! *shaking head*

  9. For my senior year in high school they had our class form the number our graduating year on the football field. If you look closely I am flipping the bird.

    The school should feel honored her school experience has left her upbeat enough to do her picture that way.

  10. Oh, come ON. Seriously? This school has nothing more important to obsess about than students’ goofy facial expressions?!

    When I was in high school (back in the Dark Ages — I finished Grade 12 in 1992), Grade 12s got two sets of photos taken: regular photos in the first week of school, along with the Grade 10s and Grade 11s, and grad photos later in the year (maybe February? long before the actual grad ceremony in May, anyway, and LONG before exam results came out in July/August). For grad photos you were supposed to wear a white shirt or blouse; the photographer brought a black gown and the appropriate colour of hood (ours were red and white, IIRC), as well as various props — a bouquet of red roses, books, a fake rolled-up diploma, a mortarboard, etc. — and took half a dozen different poses, and you got to choose which ones you wanted to order and also, later on when the yearbook was being put together, which one you wanted as your yearbook pic and for the composite photo thingy that everyone got. If you weren’t graduating / didn’t like any of your grad photos / hadn’t bothered to get any grad photos taken, the yearbook committee just used your regular photo, taken at the beginning of the year. Nobody fussed about any of it, really.

    Come to think of it, the weirdest thing about this story is the involvement of school officials in putting together the yearbook. I worked on the yearbook for two of my three years in high school, and I don’t remember that any teacher or administrator was ever involved — except that presumably the school administration must have set the budget and signed the cheques to have the yearbooks printed. I mean, we knew not to put in candid shots of people smoking in the staff parking lot or necking in the library stacks … but there certainly are PLENTY of goofy-looking photos in my high school yearbook. (My favourite is the one of me wearing a model of some kind of carbon molecule on my head like a crown while my chemistry lab partner grins goofily over my shoulder😉.) It would never have occurred to us to ask a faculty member whether it was OK to use a particular grad photo in the yearbook, no matter how goofy it looked.

  11. This just exemplifies the extreme differences in schools today.

    Some changes have been good. Our school had an outdoor smoking patio as smoking was legal at 16. I am not sad that my kids won’t be allowed to smoke at school.

    Some changes are simply undefinable and others are just plain bad (at best squelching individualism and in others limiting learning).

    One of the yearbooks from my high school years had Halloween candids of some “cool” senior guys dressed like gangsters carrying fake (plastic) sidearms in holsters… I don’t suppose we’d find it amusing anymore. Times do change.

  12. @ sylvia rachael – just be glad you didn’t graduate in ’76. Red white and blue gowns to commemorate the bicentenial. Yuck. We didn’t need no stinkin’ grins to look goofy.

  13. She’s ADORABLE. She’s smart, well-spoken, clearly loves and respects her mom, and is just freaking cute. What the heck is their problem? She looks goofy, sure, but she’s happy and funny. Leave the poor girl alone and worry about real problems.

  14. read the story- she was deliberately trying to make other kids smile. the photographer even got the girl’s mom’s permission (because high school is too young to make your own photo decisions). how ridiculous to pull her out of the yearbook for daring to try to give other kids something to smile about!

  15. in the senor year id photos some girls were not allowed to wear there their hair funny. they were mad.

  16. Way to smother our kids’ unique personalities/temperments! Good grief.

  17. I went to high school there. Madison is a pretty good school but even ten years ago they came down like a ton of bricks on people “acting up”. The year after mine some kid sneaked an inflatable ball into the graduation ceremony. They stopped the ceremony for over an hour until they figured out who it was and if they hadn’t figured it out they had made plans to not give ANY of the seniors their diplomas.

    I got a decent education there but it’s a no-nonsense type of school.

  18. Heaven forbid the girl should go against the flow (eye roll)!

  19. She needs to get a bunch of mini-wallet sized copies of her photo to hand out to her friends so they can paste the “correct” photo in their yearbooks.

    My friend Donna had the same problem in 1983. Her goofy face (crossed eyes tongue stuck out) was stricken from the yearbook but put onto her student id. Of course, that’s the only photo I remember from those days!

  20. I totally agree that it is ridiculous and unfair that her photo was deleted. Can’t kids just be kids and have fun?

    That said, I notice that she is in the class of 2013. So I think the real question here is: why on earth does she even *have* a yearbook this year?

    I noticed this yearbook creep when we took in a couple of foster kids earlier this year. Even our third-grader was regularly bringing home school propaganda to get us to buy her a pricey yearbook. Talk about over-parenting, over-schooling, over-teachering.

    When I was a (free-range) kid back in the 1970s and 1980s, we had yearbooks only if you were in your last year at a particular school–e.g. in your senior year of high school, in the 8th grade at K-8s and middle schools, and in the 5th grade only if you were at an elementary school.

    Now, the schools try to extract money not just for annual yearbooks but also for class photos, individual school photos, etc. I wish the schools would stop meddling. If I want a picture of my kid, I’ll take it myself thank you. All the paperwork they bring home about all this stuff parents are supposed to buy is almost as infuriating as the huge amont of homework they bring home every night.

  21. @jim — LOL! fortunately, I was spared that indignity not only by being two years old in 1976 but also by being Canadian😉

    @Lisa — I wonder if that’s a regional thing, because I also was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, and although there was no such thing as a yearbook in elementary school (still isn’t, at my daughter’s school), we certainly had yearbooks every year in junior high and high school. The yearbook committee included kids from every grade, and every grade was represented in the yearbook. I may be in the minority, but I love school photos — you get a fairly professional shot, very professionally printed, plus a CD from which you can print as many more copies as you need, for a reasonable cost, and without having to shlep yourself and your offspring to the photo-taking place or wait in a line-up or, really, anything except maybe, if asked, help her pick out her outfit. At DD’s school every photo package (even the really minimal ones) includes a class photo, and I really like having those; more importantly, I treasure the few I have from my own school days, and I’m happy for DD to have them because she clearly treasures them too. Of course, I’m a really crappy photographer, so perhaps that colours my perception of the value of school photo day😉.

  22. I didn’t go to school in America so I don’t have any yearbook experience of my own. But reading these comments it seems most people’s views of their yearbooks is very different from the way I’ve always thought of them.

    I hear people talking about them as a personal record, but I’ve always seem them as a public thing. I’ve never seen a friend’s yearbook that they’ve pulled out to show people how they looked in high school, but I’ve seen lots of yearbook photos used when someone gets in the news for some reason.

    If you think of them as a more public thing then the school is really engaging in a bit of reputation management on the student’s behalf (which we all discussed in a different medium a while ago: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/the-real-threat-online/ )

    Which isn’t to say I endorse the school’s action. Just giving a slightly different perspective.

  23. #1… I’m surprised school year books / annuals even exist anymore. The fear mongers should be up in arms about a book that shows photographs of their impressionable and innocent 17 year old, and also lists his NAME beside it! Who knows what kind of pervert could get their hands on it and what unspeakable (but definitely not unprintable in the local scare-rag) things that pervert will do?!

    #2 I’m also a little surprised that they didn’t beat her and arrest her for suspected school terrorism. She obviously has something to hide and needs to be sent somewhere for re-education and perhaps a screening for emotional problems. They can check her mental health after her family pays the massive fines for the incalculable damage done to this prestigious institution by her smile, of course.

    It’s a good thing they caught this in time. San Antonio has enough problems without this girl going around riling people up with her face-gang affiliations.

  24. She has an ID card for high school to wear around her neck?

  25. @Helen

    I have the same thoughts, but the schools could of praised her for her personality and yet at the same time talk about the need for a less candid photo aside for her ID.

    Schools do use the yearbook photo for display, if the student wins a scholarship or an award. A goofy photo may be great to break the ice and for friends, but in the newspaper or displayed in acknowledgment of achievement in school? Not to be overly eerie, but when my brother died after graduation in an accident the media used his yearbook photo.

    But then again if I saw her goofy photo as ‘Student of the Month’ in the local paper I would be cracking up and yes it would very much make my day. The girl is a riot.

    Usually though people who have this gift of humor know when to calm down. I think if the school handled it better, she would of complied with an secondary alternative photo.

  26. Aren’t yearbooks supposed to be memento’s of your year that you can look back at years later? Deleting photos because someone is being themselves is ridiculous. We’re not talking passport or driver’s license ID thingies…

  27. @Renee: If the school or the media wishes to use yearbook photos for ID purposes, they should have the sense to not use a goofy picture for that. Making two of each student seems to be the smart thing to do.

  28. @Renee – You’re right, the school’s response sucked. The “gang sign” crap smacked of a zero tolerance we-don’t-want-to-be-responsible-for-distinguishing-good-from-bad approach too.

  29. Oh no! One of the drones… err… students is showing personality! It’s a disaster! Don’t let the other students see.

  30. Reading this kind of stuff makes me want to homeschool my kids in order to keep them away from such craziness!!

  31. I once worked for a commercial photography studio that did school pictures.
    We had a lot of re-shoots because school people said some of the Asian kids’ eyes appeared to be squinted. I recall one mother complained about the new picture because her child’s eyes “looked funny”.

  32. Her picture reminded me of a great photo a girl at one of my schools posed for years ago. She was grinning widely and had both thumbs up. Everyone, including the administration, considered it a sign of school spirit.

  33. This silliness by the administration at James Madison High School in San Antonio, Texas demonstrates just one of the problems with the public school bean-counter mentality. Sadly, most school administrators are imprisoned by their “Linear Ideal Worldview.” They don’t think marching in lockstep is silly at all. To them the beat of a different drum … is a crime.

    Four-part harmony was certainly NOT created by an Administrator.

  34. This is the most ridiculous thing ever! In my days, the school wouldn’t have cared. I would have been scared of my mom’s reaction but if the parents are ok and it’s their money then who is the school to complain. Just another school thinking that they know better than the parents. Which is one of the reasons I homeschool.

  35. LMAO – reminds me of the time that me and my friend made faces (and I’m talking fingers in the mouth pulling our mouth apart faces) right as the photographer said 1. *flash* And we were back to normal.

    No one noticed til the books were out and the guidance councilor of all people, called us in and said (because I’ve never forgotten I almost lost it it was so funny):

    “All your friends are never going to forgive you for making their memories so ugly and hideous. If I were you, I’d hide my face. Your name is going to be mud!”

  36. Having attended my 50-year High School reunion, it takes a bit of memory-jogging to remember those days. One thing is sure–we didn’t have to wear ID badges like workers at a top-secret missile base. Of course color photography and printing was much too expensive in those days, photos were strictly B&W. Our senior class photo was taken with a big old clock-work operated panorama camera. At least two classmates stood on one end, waited for the camera to swing past them, and ran around behind the risers to get on the other end. Also, some of our sweet young high school girls slyly flashed the middle finger to an unsuspecting world.

  37. It’s all about “perfection”…The company that takes our elementary/middle school photos provides (including a mind boggling choice of costs, poses, background colors, etc.) basic retouching and ultra retouching. This means that the purpose of the class photo isn’t to preserve your child in a moment in time (OMG, can you believe those skinny jeans they wore?), but is to offer up a perfect product to the parent. Again.

  38. @NJMom — retouching of elementary-school photos? Seriously? ::shakes head:: Craziness! What could need retouching? They’re too little even to have unfortunate zits! I guess it’s good that it’s an option and not automatic, so you can then not order it … but oy.

    I did once — once — hear a mom I know complain because her son’s preschool had let him get his photo taken with his hair all messy, and they should have known she wouldn’t want a picture of him with messy hair. Most parents I know are in fact interested in capturing the real, actual kid — messy hair, dubious clothing choices and all. My kid has hair down to her waist, and this year she wanted to wear it loose for photo day, so you can imagine the results. I love the pic — it’s so her. I wouldn’t retouch it even if we did have the option.

    OTOH, retouching of high school and uni grad photos has a looooong history. The senior photos in my mom’s 1959 high school yearbook certainly must have been retouched — there’s no other explanation for the total absence of skin problems among the graduating class😉

  39. Thanks LK, for this post.

    I can hardly believe it’s been six years since my Son was in the first grade. He was imortalized on his class picture – at the top to the viewer’s left – there he is with a hilarious tongue-out grimace.

    We had it up on our cork board for months – and I got a good laugh each time I passed (glancing around to see if Alex was within earshot).

  40. When I was in high school, a kid a year younger than me took a goofy yearbook picture. It was really goofy. And the school was fine with it–they would have printed it in the yearbook. But, since it was the picture that everyone gives to grandparents and such, his mom made him retake it (this was before digital-check-before-you-develop pictures). I can still see that goofy picture (which the yearbook staff snuck into the yearbook on a candids page!).

  41. Well now, this reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone: ‘Number Twelve Looks Just Like You.’
    When we all look alike, with the same expressions, then we’ll all be equal!
    And once again, the Zone shows us what will come…
    Which brings to mind one of the most vivid memories of my childhood, the very last episode of The Twilight Zone, which I saw in original broadcast, ‘Incident at Owl Creek Bridge’ a French version of Ambrose Bierce’s short story. It chilled me to the marrow and helped shape me into the man I’ve become.
    Yet, today, I’ll bet it would be too ‘controversial’ to show to kids…
    Sometimes, a chilling dose of reality is just what children need, as long as it’s shaped by a master story teller like Serling.
    How sad for this girl. Her first foray into adulthood is marked by such a demand for conformity. If understood, this may be the best lesson she takes away from the 12 years she spent sitting and behaving.

  42. Mr. Henderson,

    The girl will be fine, I suspect since, she’s self-aware enough to goof for the photo. If she’s like me, she will come away from the incident with a healthy disrespect for authority.

    OTOH, I often (mistakenly) think that people think like me.

    I checkud out the Synopis for that TZ finale here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_12_Looks_Just_Like_You

    Oooohhh, that IS creepy!!!

    Someone could do a great spoof of the yearbook with this idea – everyone looks exactly like – and all do exactly the same things -= send a link to the school administrator. Wonder if he/she would get it?

  43. […] No Grinning in the Yearbook! Kid’s Photo Deleted This is just plain weird: A San Antonio girl who made a goofy, open-mouthed grin for her yearbook had her photo deleted […] […]

  44. Doesn’t anyone thinks it’s ridiculous to run to the press because of every dumb school ruling that a student and her fawning mother don’t like? Back in ‘the good ol’ days’ when kids could walk to school, they also had more respect for authority figures and their sometimes nonsensical edicts.

    I think kids should have more freedom of movement, yes. But I also don’t think they should call a press conference for piddly crap like this.

  45. I don’t know Jan S. Nowadays local news programs seem pretty equivalent to writing to the local paper 20+ years ago, which lots of people did in regard to school issues.

    In this case it looks like the girl got some good experience presenting herself well to local media – which is not a bad thing to have under your belt.

  46. Well, I don’t really think this one is a ‘Free Range’ issue at all. It’s not equivalent to the schools not allowing kids to ride their bikes to school or play outside if the thermometer goes below freezing.

    Apparently, the yearbook committee decided to have a certain standard for the photos contained therein. It’s a good thing to learn to accept some things and not consider the world a constant stage for ones individuality at every turn. In real life we generally have to learn to put individuality aside somewhat for our jobs and school is supposed to prepared kids for real life. For instance, my place of employment wouldn’t allow an off the wall photo on my employee ID badge.

    According to the article, they offered her a free retake. But she and Mommy decided to hold a press conference instead. I disagree with that.

    As far as the gang reference, the admin just pulled that out of their student handbook in order to have a reason to give to her. I’m sure they don’t believe that she’s a gang girl.

  47. If you just see free-range kids as simply being about treating kids like free-range chickens then no, it’s not really free-range. But Lenore put it in the context of being part of the cult of perfection which she has often riled against as being anti the FRK philosophy she espouses.

    I can’t, personally, get upset about it, but I can’t get upset about the girl protesting either. I see the school as having the right to set rules on things like that and of individuals whom those rules impact as having the right to campaign to change them.

    I think your perjorative reference to the mom as “fawning” seems rude and not supported by the article or interview linked here. What makes her fawing? She merely seems supportive to me. Also – what “press conference”? They’re being interviewed. That’s not a press conference where they’ve decided they are news and the media had better take notice. Even local news isn’t that desperate for content. They decide for themselves what they think is worth covering.

    Finally, according to the article, “Patton claims she was never offered a chance for a second photograph.” The school says that students whose photos are unacceptable “are asked to retake their photos free of charge” but isn’t quoted about this specific case. Maybe they didn’t follow their general policy here, and maybe that’s the main reason she’s kicking up a fuss – not that she wouldn’t have conformed if asked, but that she wasn’t actually offered the chance.

  48. I actually work for a photography studio that does high school photos, so here’s my take:

    Our photographers are usually a bit annoyed at the standards (or lack thereof) that the school has. When we have the photo shoot, we list is as “Yearbook & ID” so that we can truthfully say that the school has certain standards for the ID photo. (The IDs are usually stuck in wallets and pulled out for admissions to school events, FWIW.)

    Some of the restrictions make sense, such as the “no tube tops” rule. Due to cropping, girls will look naked in tube top photos. (Incidentally, we always suggest long sleeves because they really do photograph better. Most kids don’t take us up on it at the end of summer, go figure.) No shades or hats (religious exemptions, such as yarmulkes, are permitted.) And no goofy grins.

    Well, after years of complaints from students (who wanted “their” photo, and who can blame them?) we finally figured out a trick: Two photographers on a line, and at the first one you get two photos taken, both more relaxed and personalized. Yes, one of them can be totally goofy, with props and all. And then the ID photo, the regimental one. Since we started that— and gave the parents the option of ordering any pose, including black & white versions— we’ve had an immense decrease in complaints from the students, even about problems that weren’t even related.

    We do offer retouching, primarily blemish-related. However, if a student claims they don’t “like” their ID (a common complaint at that age), they have to get past our boss, who doesn’t accept “I don’t like it” as a reason for retakes. (Parents who don’t like it are apt to get listened to, however, because they’re not in the throes of adolescent weirdness about their looks.)*

    For the rest of it, we don’t allow hand gestures in general, and no alcohol/drugs/guns related T-shirts. As the Photoshop expert for many years, I’ve had to come up with some amusing dodges for “fixing” group shots, like the time I changed a class photo with a group of guys wearing T-shirts that spelled out a rude term to “We (heart) (school initials.)” At the shoots, I’d warn them that we have ways of removing rude gestures, and some groups actually listened.

    *I swear, all of those girls who hate their high school photos are going to look back at them in ten years and wonder why they thought they looked bad. Aside from hair/clothes, that is.

  49. Yahoo results…

    While browsing Yahoo I found this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

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