Yearbook photos can be troublesome for District 51, too

Despite national media coverage focused on our neighbor to the south, rejecting yearbook photos is not unique to Durango High School.

School District 51 high school yearbook editors have rejected photo submissions for everything from too much cleavage to a hunting enthusiast placing a rifle across his lap in a senior photo.

Colorado law and District 51 student publication policies allow students selected as yearbook or newspaper editors to determine what material is appropriate for publication as long as that material does not violate libel, slander, defamation or obscenity laws. Each fall, students in yearbook and newspaper classes determine guidelines, mostly based on the guidelines of past students, for how to determine what is appropriate for publication, District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.

“In the case of Palisade High School, they have guidelines that say if there are photos where kids are in violation of the dress code, wearing T-shirts with alcohol, hate messages, or too much cleavage, if those photos are submitted, then those editors will not accept them,” Kirtland said.

Palisade is the only local school Kirtland is aware of that has specifically discussed what to do about photos that violate school dress code, in light of Durango High School student editors rejecting a photo submitted by Durango senior Sydney Spies for her school’s yearbook. Spies appeared Monday on NBC’s “The Today Show,” days after the story broke in the Durango Herald, and she said editors rejected a photo of her in a sheer yellow skirt and strapless, midriff-baring black top, because they said it violated dress code.

Spies volunteered a second photo of herself in a tight, short dress, but that shot was rejected as well.

Durango’s student dress-code policy, according to its 2011–12 student handbook, bans students from wearing to school tops that expose the back, abdomen or chest; tube tops; or skirts that don’t reach the students’ fingertips when they have their arms at their sides. The policy does not mention what students can or cannot wear in yearbook photos.

Mesa County Valley School District 51 has a dress-code policy as well, which school principals have the option to expand with other rules. The district policy bans students from wearing clothing or hairstyles that may interfere with some classes, such as physical education or labs, or disrupt class.

Spies said on “The Today Show” she plans to pay for an ad in the yearbook that will feature the first photo. Kirtland said he doesn’t believe that would work for local students who may have their senior photos rejected.

“Kids take pride in their schools. That extends to the advertising. From our perspective, you don’t want advertising that is distasteful and inappropriate,” he said.


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