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Students upset over digital clothes cover-ups in yearbook

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:20 p.m. HST, May 29, 2014

HEBER CITY, Utah » A group of Utah high school students said they were surprised and upset to discover their school yearbook photos were digitally altered, with sleeves and higher necklines drawn on to cover bare skin.

Several students at Wasatch High School in Heber City said their outfits were in line with the public school's dress code, and they've worn them on campus many times.

"I was shocked and stunned they would do this and wouldn't tell me," 16-year-old sophomore Kimberly Montoya said Thursday. "I just feel targeted at this school. I would have been OK if they had asked me."

The girls said having their photos edited to meet modesty standards squelched their right to express themselves through what they wear.

They also said they felt targeted because the standards were not uniformly applied. At least seven others at the 1,700-student school had their photos altered, and none were boys, they said.

"I was pretty angry about it, really, because that's who we are," said sophomore Rachel Russell, who had sleeves added to her picture. Another sophomore, Shelby Baum, discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt, covering a tattoo on her chest.

The Wasatch County School District said in a statement Thursday that students were warned when yearbook photos were taken last fall that images might be altered if students violated dress standards.

"It is understandable that students in violation of the dress code could forget that they received warnings about inappropriate dress," the statement said.

District officials apologized about the alterations being applied inconsistently and said they were evaluating the policy on doctoring photos.

KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City first reported the altered photos Wednesday. The students live in Heber City, which is about 30 miles east of Salt Lake City and has a population of 12,000.

An estimated two-thirds of Utah residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which encourages members to practice modesty in how they dress. For women, that includes covering bare shoulders and avoiding low-cut shirts and short skirts and shorts.

The guidelines stem from a belief that bodies are sacred gifts from God, and that God commands people to be chaste. Mormons tend to be uncomfortable with clothing that promotes sexuality due to these beliefs.

Sleeves also cover up the top piece of their temple garments, which resembles a T-shirt. These garments, which Mormons usually start wearing as young adults, are worn underneath regular clothes and serve as a reminder of covenants they make with God.

Church leaders have encouraged young girls in recent years to stay true to modesty standards despite being bombarded with images in popular society that don't follow the same guidelines.

The Wasatch School District dress code uses the word modesty twice: "Clothing will be modest, neat, clean, in good repair. Modesty includes covering shoulders, midriff, back, underwear and cleavage at all times."

Haylee Nielsen, a 15-year-old sophomore, said students who aren't Mormon can sometimes feel judged at the school, adding there is big focus on modesty.

Wasatch isn't the only Utah school to ban bare shoulders. Most of the eight high schools in the Granite School District, one of the state's largest, also require covered shoulders, district spokesman Ben Horsley said. The Alpine School District has a districtwide ban on halter tops and tank tops.

Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Utah, said the altered photos are an example of our culture shaming young women into believing they must dress and act a certain way.

School dress codes and yearbook photos have long been a source of consternation across the country.

Recently, schools in Illinois and Utah have banned leggings because they are too revealing. In San Francisco, a Catholic high school earlier this month apologized to a student and her family for refusing to include a portrait of the girl wearing a tuxedo in its yearbook.

McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.

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Anonymous wrote:
Too bad. Clothing and hair styles are part of the embarrassment and shame of looking back at your yearbook later in life
on May 29,2014 | 12:58PM
Anonymous wrote:
I meant to say,

Too bad. Clothing and hair styles are part of the embarrassment and shame of looking back at your yearbook later in life and saying, "Good lord, did I really dress like that?" Also good for making friends laugh long and loud....

on May 29,2014 | 01:01PM
localguy wrote:
Gotta watch those clueless m o r o n s, I mean Mormons. They just can't handle the real world. Next think you know the will be reducing women's bust size, too big for their jurassic codes. Sad.
on May 29,2014 | 01:42PM
hikine wrote:
It's what the school would like them to look like instead of freedom of expression. Doctoring photos is suppressing their memories of high school. What other stuff has the school done unbeknownst to students?
on May 29,2014 | 01:46PM
Jerry_D wrote:
Correction: Socialism.
on May 29,2014 | 01:57PM
Jerry_D wrote:
Unless there is an expressly-written dress code that addresses these students' manner of dress, then this is perhaps a violation of the First Amendment. Hopefully a (non-Mormon) lawyer picks this up and sues the school as well as the school district responsible for this. Starting to feel like communism around here...
on May 29,2014 | 01:55PM
HIE wrote:
Ummm....your ignorance is showing. This isn't communism or socialism. This is more along the lines of religious theocracy. Right wing religious-based conservatism, just like the Taliban, Iran and Mississippi.
on May 29,2014 | 04:03PM
palani wrote:
And don't forget the left's worship of the state and its theocrat-in-chief.
on May 29,2014 | 06:16PM
Jerry_D wrote:
Whoa...my "communism" comment got deleted (by admin, I presume), so my "socialism" correction got added to the wrong remark.
on May 29,2014 | 01:58PM
Mahalo wrote:
With all these year book things going on each year with the schools, we need to go back to the high schools having photos taken at the school like in Elementary. Then at that time the school officials can make these calls and the kid could be reschedule for another day. This would also avoid all the young mothers having photos with babies that are omitted also. Dress and looks are subjective. What may be acceptable to me may not be to you.
on May 29,2014 | 02:18PM
Lcwc wrote:
Freedom of expression, my eye. There has to be some decorum established. Express yourself all you want in your own home! But if you come in for a job interview, taking a school photo, or just walking around in public, you'd better adhere to certain societal rules of decorum and modesty.
on May 29,2014 | 02:39PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Dress like a caveman and be free as a bird.
on May 29,2014 | 04:04PM
itsok wrote:
what is this? the middle east? this is a state school for goodness sake! it's not like anybody was showing a nipple!
on May 29,2014 | 10:27PM
itsok wrote:
I am not surprised this happened in a state school in Utah.
on May 29,2014 | 10:23PM
kukui_nut wrote:
Slow news day...
on May 30,2014 | 07:12AM
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