“Morgyn’s name wasn’t even mentioned as a part of the team,” her sister Jordyn Poll wrote in a Facebook post, later reported on by KSL. “She wasn’t included. She spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”
The incident sparked a barrage of social media posts criticizing the school for excluding the teenager from the yearbook, with some, including those who have relatives with Down syndrome, wondering whether the choice was a deliberate act to ostracize Arnold over her genetic condition.
The conflict is one of several involving school yearbooks in recent weeks. Last month, the yearbook coordinator of a Florida high school altered the pictures of 80 girls to fix supposed dress-code violations. That same month, school authorities in Arkansas apologized for inaccuracies in a junior high yearbook’s current-events section that wrongly stated President Donald Trump had not been impeached.
Shoreline Junior High School administrators did not immediately respond to messages from The Washington Post late Thursday. It is unclear who chose to include the photo without Arnold in the yearbook.
In a now-deleted post on social media, school officials called the photo swap a mistake they are investigating.
“We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made that omitted a student photo out of the yearbook,” the school posted on its Facebook page Thursday before removing its entire profile from the site. “Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error. We are continuing to look at what has occurred and to improve our practice.”
A spokeswoman for the school district, which is just north of Salt Lake City, told KSL that the junior high suspended all of its social media accounts for the summer season partly because it wasn’t able to monitor the influx of comments after the yearbook incident. By the time the account was deleted, the post had about 450 comments from parents and other community members demanding answers.
On social media, Poll shared side-by-side images of the photo featuring her sister and the one that was published in the yearbook. One showed Arnold sitting in the front row wearing a blue T-shirt while surrounded by her team. In the second, Arnold is nowhere to be found.
“It’s the SAME cheer team — SAME girls, SAME photo shoot, SAME poses, but one included all team members and one did not,” Poll wrote. “A choice was made on which photo to submit.”
“They, throughout the entire year, did such a great job of including her and helping her and making her feel loved,” she told the station. “These girls were nothing but kind. These girls were nothing but inclusive.”
On Thursday, the parents of Arnold’s teammates released a statement saying their daughters had nothing to do with the yearbook photo selection. They called Arnold their “beloved team manager.”
“Shoreline Jr. High and the Cheer Team have worked hard to build a culture of acceptance and inclusivity of all students,” the statement read. “Sadly, this incident overshadows much of our efforts. We are working toward making this right with Morgyn and her family to prevent this from occurring in the future.”
Arnold is expected to return to Shoreline Junior High School for the upcoming academic year, Poll told the Salt Lake Tribune, adding that her sister didn’t want to talk about the yearbook. While it is unclear whether Arnold will rejoin the cheerleading team, Poll said she wants her sister’s school to do more for students with disabilities.
“You can be better,” she told the Tribune, “and I expect you to be better.”