Utah school omits teen with Down’s syndrome from cheer team photo

·3 min read

A Utah junior high school that took two official photos of its cheerleading squad did not include the 14-year-old team member with Down syndrome in one of these pictures – and chose to use that image in its yearbook and on social media, according to reports.

Shoreline junior high school cheer squad member Morgyn Arnold had been the team’s manager, and “knew all the routines by heart”, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. In the photo that included Arnold, she was seated in the front row, whereas in the second image she was clearly absent.

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Arnold’s older sister, Jordyn Poll, said Morgyn was crestfallen when she looked through the yearbook which, according to the New York Times, came out several weeks ago.. Arnold’s name also wasn’t included. Poll reportedly said she thought this decision was because of her sibling’s disability.

“Morgyn is very intelligent,” Poll said to the Salt Lake Tribune. “She knew what happened. She was sad, and she was hurt.”

Poll also remarked on now-private social media posts that Arnold had “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends – but was left out. I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team.”

Poll alleged that Shoreline had decided to “deliberately choose to be exclusive”, per the newspaper. She also claimed it was the second instance in three years where Arnold was excluded from a school yearbook. Shoreline did not include Arnold in the class list two years ago, Poll claimed.

A school district spokesperson said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made. We are continuing to look at what has occurred and why it occurred.

“Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to others impacted by this error. We will continue to address it with the parents of the student. We will continue to look at our processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

Poll claimed, however, that Shoreline was not contrite when Arnold’s family contacted them. Instead, a school staffer “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do,” the newspaper quoted Poll as saying. She did note that the school had called Arnold’s family Wednesday night and were trying “to make the situation right”.

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While some on social media questioned the other cheerleaders, Arnold’s family urged people to stop “shaming, bullying and threats” targeting them, pointing out that they did not have any role in selecting this photo. “Those girls are nothing less than amazing,” Poll remarked. “They love Morgyn. They have done everything to help her and make her feel included. They have feelings, too.”

Poll told the Tribune that Arnold doesn’t want to discuss the issue; the New York Times reported her family saying that they did not want her to talk with the newspaper directly, citing worries about online harassment. Poll did say that Arnold had decided to forgive whoever was involved.

“Morgyn is the most forgiving person,” she commented. “We can all just try to follow her example.”

Arnold, who will be in the ninth grade next year, has not yet made a decision if she wants to work as the squad’s cheer manager again. If Arnold decided not to, Poll said, she “will always find ways to continue cheering on her friends and her school. Morgyn looks for ways to cheer on everyone around her.”

Arnold’s father told the New York Times that she planned to keep cheerleading with her friends.

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