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5 facts to know about the St. Johns County school yearbook controversy

Parents were outraged when their daughters brought their yearbooks home to find their photos had been digitally altered to cover their chests and shoulders -- badly.

ST JOHNS, Fla. — The photos in a St. Johns County school's yearbook made national headlines last week, after the school chose to digitally alter dozens of girls' pictures to cover their chests and shoulders.

In case you missed it, here are five facts to know about why parents of students at Bartram Trail High School are outraged over their daughters' yearbook photos.

1) At least 83 girls' photos were altered, by First Coast News' count from a yearbook that a student shared with us.

The photos that were edited appeared to be all girl students': 17 freshmen, 28 sophomores and 38 juniors. A spokesperson from St. Johns County Schools tells First Coast News the school made the choice to cover girls' chests and shoulders, in keeping with its policy: "All images in ads and all individual student pictures must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted." 

Parents we spoke with say they were not notified the photos would be edited, and their students were never offered the opportunity for a re-take of their pictures. The school district did say the school is offering refunds to any parent who calls about the issue.

2) The girls say they were never told their outfits violated the dress code.

Riley O'Keefe was wearing an outfit that the school told her met the dress code requirements, yet the school decided to edit the photo that appeared in the yearbook to cover up part of the student's body. Another student's mother said her daughter's photo was altered to accommodate the dress code, but her daughter was never confronted at school about her outfit being inappropriate.

In fact, she said it's her daughter's favorite outfit and she wears it on a weekly basis without a problem.

"Yesterday she happened to be wearing the shirt again so after school, we went up to the school and asked if she was in dress code and they said yes. So, my next question was if the shirt is in dress code and is good enough for school and your school ID, why is it not enough for the yearbook?" Stephanie Fabre said.

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3) It's not the first time the school has made the news over dress code issues.

Students and parents say the edits are part of a larger dress code controversy in the county that disproportionately targets female students. Dozens of parents are reporting the same issue, and say this is sexualizing young girls.

"They are getting all this backlash on the children and they had nothing to do with it. So, now you've made them even more of a target," Yvette Ballard told First Coast News.

Last month, Bartram Trail High School sophomore Laila Khazravan delivered a powerful speech during a school board meeting about the issue of dress code violations. Hundreds of parents and students have been fighting against what they call a "sexist school dress code" in the county.

Public records show 83% of dress code violations in St. Johns County Schools and 90% at Bartram Trail High School were for female students. St. Johns County Director for School Services Paul Abbatinozzi says he's expecting changes to the policy, which would come in May and then be approved in June.

RELATED: 'You've made them even more of a target': 83 high school girls have photos digitally altered to cover chest in St. Johns County yearbook

4) Students say it's a double standard, because other pages in the yearbook included pictures of the boys' swim team wearing Speedos.

O'Keefe told First Coast News she believes there's a double standard and pointed out members of the boys swim team were in the yearbook wearing speedos.

"It doesn't make any sense that they looked at that and was like, 'This is okay, but this is not,'" she said.

Jake Third says his girlfriend’s picture was censored as well. He agrees there is a double standard.

“Guys wear muscle shirts to school, and they won’t dress code them,” Third said. “But they’ll dress code girls for wearing a tank top.”

5) It's not just that the photos were edited. It's how they were edited.

One parent we spoke to said her daughter's photo was completely botched.

It appears small sections of the students' clothing were cut and pasted over their chests. In some photos, the designs on the shirts are completely unrecognizable afterward. 

“They completely altered her photo, and it makes her chest looked deformed in a way,” Adrian Bartlett said. “Now other kids are writing in her yearbook and writing about it and making comments and jokes about it.”

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Credit: Provided
Bartram Trail High School chose to edit dozens of girls' photos for the school yearbook, despite the girls saying their outfits met dress code requirements.

As a senior, Third says he's disappointed.

“It’s annoying to me because we didn’t get much of a homecoming or prom,” Third said. “And I thought the yearbook would be really good, and now there’s a problem with the yearbook.”

RELATED: 'You've made them even more of a target': 83 high school girls have photos digitally altered to cover chest in St. Johns County yearbook

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