September 10, 2007

Teen’s Yearbook Photo Banned for Flower

MERRIMACK, N.H. - A New Hampshire teenager's yearbook photo has been rejected, because she's holding a flower. Merrimack High School student Melissa Morin's senior photograph featured her and a small red flower. School officials, however, said the picture is not going to make it in the yearbook because props aren't allowed.

In the photo, Morin, 17, who loves acting, is sitting on a costume trunk backstage at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. She wore a black and white sundress and clutched the flower.

"I totally understand that schools have right to dictate policy," said Manchester photographer Brett Mallard. "I think the issue is people need to be made aware that we've thrown common sense out the window. When we're restricting kids from holding a stupid flower in their hand, it's kind of silly, quite frankly."

The policy stemmed from a 2005 controversy in Londonderry, where a student posed with his gun. A judge ruled in favor of the school, but Merrimack officials said they didn't want to face similar scuffles.

Morin's mother says she wasn't aware of the policy.

"I understand (the school's) dilemma in trying to make it black and white ... and not blur the line," said Kathie Roy. "On the other hand, if something is allowed in the classroom, something benign, then I think it's perfectly acceptable (to allow it in a photograph)."

Ken Johnson, principal, said last year, all four grades were told about the policy but nothing was printed until this year. The school's yearbook coordinator, Sharon Cloutier, released a document about the rule, Johnson said, but he wasn't certain how it was distributed.

Cloutier recently sent an e-mail to parents reminding them about the due date for photos, and it included a statement about no hats or other props.

In some photos in the 2007 yearbook, Morin noticed flowers in the background or students leaning against trees. She wonders if those are props, too.

Cloutier wrote to Mallard that the flower would be cropped, but added that the photograph could be published if advertising space were bought in the book. Parents are offered the chance to buy a spot to write messages and publish photos.

Morin questioned that if the photo was good enough for the back page, why not for the senior section? Mallard agreed.


Information from: The Telegraph,