Several girls at a Utah high school excitedly cracked open their yearbooks this week – and were met with an unpleasant surprise: Their portraits had been digitally altered to cover up their bare arms and erase their tattoos.
The yearbook staff at Wasatch High School, in Heber City, was allegedly instructed earlier this year by school officials to Photoshop pictures of students wearing tank tops, low-cut blouses and T-shirts with seemingly inappropriate slogans, as well as portraits of students with tattoos, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The students who were affected, all of them girls, told the paper they had no knowledge that their photos had been doctored until they received their yearbooks.
Sophomore Shelby Baum, who wore a V-neck shirt to the photo session, turned to her photo in the yearbook and found herself sporting a square neckline. A tattoo on her collarbone, which reads, “I am enough the way I am,” was nowhere to be seen.
Baum tells PEOPLE that she got the tattoo to remind her how she’d moved past a difficult childhood.
“My tattoo is really important to me because it reminds me of how far I’ve come,” Baum says. “My mom and my sisters and I all got the same tattoo. I’m really upset that the school covered it up. It’s like they’re saying, ‘You’re not enough.’ It’s like they’re trying to shame me.”
School officials claimed that at the photo shoot, a large sign was placed – supposedly visible to all – informing students that inappropriate attire would not be allowed and that photos may be edited to rectify any violations.
The school, however, has not been consistent in implementing those guidelines: Some photos of students flashing tank tops and bare arms were altered, while others weren’t.
“It is understandable that students in violation of the dress code could forget that they received warnings about inappropriate dress,” Terry Shoemaker, superintendent of the Wasatch County School District said in a statement. “However, in the application of these corrections, the high school yearbook staff did make some errors. The school apologizes for that inconsistency.”
Shoemaker said the district will now evaluate their photo-editing practices and determine whether such guidelines should be implemented in the future.
It’s an empty consolation for students like Kimberly Montoya, a sophomore who wore a white sleeveless blouse to her yearbook photo shoot, only discover that short sleeves were later stitched in digitally.
“Every time I walk into that school, I feel judged,” she told the Tribune, explaining that the retouched photos reflect a double standard of modesty when it comes to boys and girls. “I know there should be restrictions, but [the school] pushes it to the limit.”