A few months ago, several pictures of seniors wearing spandex and body paint to display school spirit at the football game against Washington Courthouse were removed from the website version of Bexleo, the high school’s yearbook publication. Despite these innocent attempts at being spirited fans, pictures featuring the senior girls were removed from the website and Instagram by Bexley’s administration. This may seem like an unnecessary use of censorship, but the reasoning behind taking down the photos is more complicated than expected.
The conversation surrounding the photos first arose when a community member who had come across the pictures via Instagram complained that they were inappropriate. With this in mind, the administration took the photos down in order to avoid creating a larger problem out of something seemingly harmless. Since a community member as well as the administration had an issue with the pictures, Bexleo felt obligated to respond to the problem in the most efficient manner possible: removing the pictures without difficulty.
Apart from the morality issue surrounding the incident–the over-censorship and oversexualization of women throughout history–it was also a legal concern. Based on the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case (1988), it was set precedent that administration’s regulation of school-sponsored activities is allowed and doesn’t infringe upon any First Amendment rights–as long as educators actions were “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” With this legal ability on top of the complaints, the Administration was strongly urged to follow through with this removal.
Further reasoning behind the decision was that these photos were posted on public media pages where any person could access them, not just friends, family or the seniors themselves. Though it may seem easy to blame the administration for an overuse of power, it was the best option for such a sensitive subject.
There is an ongoing tradition for seniors, particularly female-identifying students, to wear sports bras and spandex while decked in body paint during the first home football game as a show of school spirit. For years, pictures of students displaying their school pride have been displayed in Bexleo—the high school yearbook. However, students were surprised to notice some of these photos had been taken down from the website this year.
According to Principal Kristin Robbins, the photos were removed in late fall after a single complaint was made to the district. The complaint claimed the senior girls were dressed inappropriately after seeing the photos via Bexleo Instagram post. In response, Bexleo was instructed by the district to remove all photos depicting the group of painted students from the website.
It is worth pointing out that photos from previous years depicting similarly dressed students remain up. This long standing tradition hasn’t been questioned by the school before, so the sudden removal of this year’s photos seems unfair and excessive, especially in response to a single complaint.
Robbins said the complaint suggested students should not have been dressed as they were at a school event, as the dress code states students are required to wear shirts and shoes at all times while on school property. While the seniors girls may not have been wearing shirts in the removed photos, pictures of shirtless male students remain up on the Bexleo website from multiple school events.
It’s puzzling as to why these photos remain posted while those of female students were removed. Both the male and female students broke the school dress code, so one must conclude the complaint advocating the school to remove the photos had sexist motivations.
After receiving the complaint about the photos, administration should have asked the students in the photos if they wished for them to be taken down, rather than automatically removing memorable moments of their senior year.
Freshman Wilson Klingolhofer
“No. I think students deserve to be able to voice their opinions in any situation because we make up the majority of people being affected.”
Sophomore Jhene Flowers
“No. If the pictures aren’t of the parent’s child then they shouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Junior Dylan Goldberg
“No. Censorship should only occur as a result of a direct threat to student safety or security.”
Senior Madison Lampke
“No. The administration should stand by the students and not always listen to parents’ complaints.”
English teacher Michelle Rogers
“No. Administration should be aware of issues that need to be censored, not necessarily of the results of parent complaints.”
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