MOUNT VERNON, Va. – Officials at Virginia’s Mount Vernon High School are censoring yearbook photos of pregnant students, and students are fighting back.
The Mount Vernon High School yearbook “Surveyor” theme is meant to explore “Where we really live,” and editor Anderson Bonilla told The Washington Post he intended to reflect the reality at the school with features on immigrant students, and student mothers.
But a photo junior Hannah Talbert posted to Instagram posing with her bare stomach was apparently a little too “real” for principal Esther Manns. After securing permission from Talbert, students planned to include the shot in the yearbook, but Manns refused to allow it, editor Anderson Bonilla told the Post.
“We are actually giving a realistic view of what these girls go through,” Bonilla said. “She’s still here. She’s getting her education. That’s what we’re trying to show the school.”
“We wanted to report something worth knowing,” he said.
Talbert told the Post she gave permission to use the private pictures because she’s proud of her accomplishments – raising a 6-month-old son while continuing with a full load of classes.
“I’m going to buy a yearbook, and me having a baby was a big part of my life,” the 17-year-old said.
Talbert’s success after childbirth is due in large part to the support of her parents, who also back her desire to share her story with teens in similar situations.
“I’m kind of disappointed that the school wanted to take it out,” said Talbert’s father, Mac Talbert. “Hannah is not the only kid who has had to face this. She’s taking it head-on.”
Talbert said that despite her unintended pregnancy, she plans to attend Penn State University and become a surgeon, the Associated Press reports.
“I don’t think I’ll regret it,” she said of sharing her pregnancy. “That would be like saying I regret having my son, and I don’t.”
Bonilla told the media Manns banned Talbert’s picture from the yearbook, and Manns didn’t respond to requests for comment. But school spokesman John Torre issued a statement that contends Manns simply asked students to secure permission to publish the images, and has not made any determinations on which pictures will be approved and which won’t.
The principal did not submit a written decision on the pictures after a meeting with Bonilla, though district policy allows students to appeal a decision if she does.
According to the AP:
Bonilla also said he believes that the students are on firm ground in publishing the photos. In the U.S. Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, justices ruled that principals could censor articles on such sensitive subjects as pregnancy and divorce in student publications since the publication carries the “imprimatur” of the school.
But district policy spells out that principals can censor only material that they believe will cause a disruption or that is “harmful to juveniles.”