Shoreline Junior High in Utah is getting a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons, after it was revealed they took two photos of their cheerleading squad, choosing to use the one that did not feature their manager Morgyn Arnold, 14, a teenager with Down syndrome as the official image.
In a lengthy post on Facebook, Morgyn's sister Jordyn Poll wrote, "It’s the SAME cheer team – SAME girls, SAME photoshoot, SAME poses, but one included all team members and one did not."
"Unfortunately, the first one was posted on the school’s social accounts and in the school yearbook. Additionally, Morgyn’s name wasn’t even mentioned as a part of the team. She wasn’t included."
Jordyn continued, "She spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out… A choice was made on which photo to submit, a choice made MULTIPLE times and a choice that excluded Morgyn EVERY. SINGLE. TIME."
She also pointed out that on the first page of the yearbook the quote, "I don’t care how insignificant you think you are, one person can absolutely make a difference," is proudly displayed.
"Please, be the one person whose actions are inclusive," Jordyn wrote. "Be the person who stands up for what’s right and makes a difference. Teach those around you, kids and adults, to look around and see the Morgyns being sidelined."
She told The Salt Lake Tribune, "Morgyn is very intelligent... She knew what happened. She was sad, and she was hurt."
In a post that was later hidden or deleted, Shoreline Junior High issued an apology.
"We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made that omitted a student photo out of the yearbook," the post read.
"Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologise to all others impacted by this error. We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice."
But many social media users came to Morgyn's defence with one user writing, "It’s not a mistake when there were two separate photos taken."
"Deliberate and also jaw-droppingly foolish, since the photo with her in it is roughly 10 to 12 times cooler than the one without her," another added.
One father took to Twitter to write, "I can’t count the number of times our son has been excluded, or nearly excluded, from events and pictures and related social activities in his eight years of school. I know this fury."
Cheerleaders not to blame
The Shoreline Junior cheer team and their parents also issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened by the selection of the photograph without our beloved team manager".
"The cheerleaders were not involved in the selection of the photograph that made the yearbook. Had they been, the picture of the cheer team with their manager, Morgyn, would have been selected."
The statement also revealed some of the members of the cheer squad were being shamed and bullied despite them having no say over the photo.
Jordyn also took to Facebook to share a message about the bullying and shaming, writing, "I've had many concerned messages regarding the cheer team and these girls. Please listen and hear me clearly - these girls are not the problem, please stop shaming them! They were kind, inclusive and they are Morgyn's friends.
"This year was hard for everyone and the issue is not with these girls. The issue is with those above them, who are now working with us to make change."
She added, "To the parents and the girls on the team - from the bottom of my heart, you are amazing and we love you. We are grateful for you and grateful for the way you've respected our sweet Morgyn."
Jordyn also told the Tribune Morgyn doesn't want to talk about the situation, but has decided to forgive those involved, "Morgyn is the most forgiving person... We can all just try to follow her example."
Morgyn has not yet decided if she wants to return as the cheer manager again, however, she "will always find ways to continue cheering on her friends and her school".
"Morgyn looks for ways to cheer on everyone around her."
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