The experience left 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold devastated and confused.
Morgyn Arnold was excited when she received her middle school yearbook. The 14-year-old had been learning all her cheerleading squad’s routines while serving as its team manager and had posed with the team for a photograph. But flipping through the yearbook's pages left her devastated and confused. The school chose a team photograph that didn't have Morgyn in it to include in the yearbook. The teen from Utah, who has Down syndrome, was heartbroken. “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.”
Being on the junior high cheer squad gave Morgyn Arnold a chance to make friends at a new school. But when the yearbook came out a few weeks ago, Morgyn, who has Down syndrome, was not in the team’s photo or listed as part of the squad. https://t.co/LQPi95duus— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 17, 2021
Poll took to social media to call the school out on their actions. She shared two photos of the Shoreline Junior High cheerleading team — one including Morgyn and one without. The photo without Morgyn was the photo that was chosen to be posted and used. "She was devastated," Poll told FOX 13. "Those girls were so kind to her during the year. 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. They, throughout the entire year, did such a great job of including her and helping her and making her feel loved. These girls were nothing but kind. These girls were nothing but inclusive." But Poll wondered who made the choice to exclude her sister from the photograph.
that they did this is heartbreaking and sickening-- just awful all the way around. Acts like this hurt our precious children and teach folks that its okay to exclude people.— Sonja Schulz (@sonjaschulz) June 20, 2021
Morgyn’s father, Jeff Arnold, told BuzzFeed News that Morgyn had a tough time after the incident. “I said, ‘Morgyn, how are you, okay? How do you feel?’” Arnold said. “She said, ‘I'm sad, but those are my friends.’” The dad hopes that Morgyn's story will help raise awareness and conversations about inclusivity when it comes to everyone and not just people with special needs. “We're all unique and special in our own aspect,” Arnold said. “How do we ensure that we're more mindful for everybody? I know there were other people besides Morgyn who experienced the same thing, because they reached out to us ... but their kids aren't any less important than Morgyn [just] because people have rallied around her. I think that this is just a reminder that ... being mindful and intentional of everybody is what's important. And when we can’t, how do we be better?”
The incident sparked outrage from the online community criticizing the school for excluding the teen from the yearbook. Some wondered whether the choice was a deliberate act to exclude the young student because of her genetic condition. After Poll's post went viral and the school was slammed harshly for its actions, Shoreline Junior High issued a statement calling the photograph selection a mistake. The Davis County School District’s statement is a similar response to the one issued by the school to KSL: “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 also will continue to look at our processes to ensure this does not happen again.”