Utah school under fire for erasing cheer team manager with Down syndrome from yearbook photo

A cheerleading squad team manager who has Down syndrome was heartlessly excluded from her school’s yearbook photo and people are demanding to know if it had anything to do with her disability.

Morgyn Arnold is 14-years-old and in the eighth grade at Shoreline Junior High School in Layton, Utah. She was simply “devastated” when she found out that she was excluded from the cheer squad photo in the school’s 2020-21 yearbook, KSTU reported.

“Those girls were so kind to her during the year,” Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, stated. “Those girls on the squad were her friends … they are her friends … for her to not be included when all was said and done was devastating.”

Two photos were taken of the team. One with Arnold and one without. Her sister posted the two photos on her Facebook account on Tuesday. The sister’s account was changed to private shortly thereafter. She claimed that some of the cheerleaders had received death threats over the post.

(Video Credit: KSL TV5)

“It’s not OK to point fingers and to tell these girls that they need to be crucified,” Poll stated. “I want to raise awareness that this happened and choices are made all the time to be exclusive. I don’t think anybody was malicious or hateful, but the choice was still made and should’ve never been done in the first place.”

“The first picture you see is a cute junior high cheer team,” Poll posted. “The second, although similar, includes all members of the team. It’s the SAME cheer team — SAME girls, SAME photo shoot, SAME poses, but one included all team members and one did not.”

“Morgyn is my very best friend, and my heart was broken for her to experience this kind of exclusion,” Poll noted. “I felt like at some point it was on me to say something.”

It is unknown who made the decision to leave Arnold out of the photo or why. Poll, however, says that her family is following Arnold’s example by forgiving the school and they hope that this kind of exclusion never happens again.

“My message is that kindness wins,” Poll declared. “We have to be better than this, and we are capable of being better than this.” Having said that, she also thinks the exclusion was because of her sister’s disability.

“Morgyn is very intelligent,” Poll told the Salt Lake Tribune. “She knew what happened. She was sad, and she was hurt.” Arnold received a copy of the yearbook on the last day of school.

Her sister is saying it is “inappropriate to point fingers” at anyone at Shoreline: “I think there was a lot of miscommunication and a lot of things that happened very poorly,” Poll remarked. The family is now reviewing the matter with the school and the yearbook may be reprinted due to the oversight.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Poll commented. “We’re moving in the right direction with the school to make the change that needs to be made going forward.”

Her original missive on Facebook accused the school of “deliberately” excluding Arnold. This is evidently the second time in three years her sister has been left out of the yearbook.

“Two years ago they didn’t even include her in the class list,” her Facebook post read. “We contacted the school administration this year, and the answer we got was as ignorant as the photo.”

The school has issued a statement claiming they are “deeply saddened” over the omission: “Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” Shoreline Junior High School officials said. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”

The exclusion really angered people online:

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