The eight-grader's sister took to Facebook to call out the school's insensitive decision to exclude the teen from the team's yearbook photo.
Morgyn Arnold was devastated and confused when she came home from the last day of school. The eighth-grader didn't understand why she had been left out of the Shoreline Junior High school cheerleading team's yearbook photos despite very much being a part of the team. Although Morgyn, who has Down Syndrome, was officially the team manager, she had attended practice sessions, learned routines, and cheered alongside her teammates at every home game, her older sister Jordyn Poll told NBC News. And yet, the school chose the one team photograph that didn't have Morgyn to include in the yearbook and use in several other school and promotional materials.
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
"Everyone knows how it feels to be excluded," Poll said. "It's never a good feeling, so of course Morgyn was bummed." Upset that the school took such a stance toward her 14-year-old sister, Poll took to Facebook to call them out on their actions. "I've sat and thought about what I wanted to say, and honestly nothing I say will ever make this okay. I tend to stay quiet, especially on social media, but I couldn't sit quiet this time," she wrote, sharing two photos of the Shoreline Junior High cheerleading team — one including Morgyn and one without.
"The first picture you see is a cute junior high cheer team. The second, although similar, includes all members of the team," Poll continued. "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. She 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. I hope that no one ever has to explain why people deliberately choose to be exclusive," she continued. "There were two photos: one with Morgyn and one without. A choice was made on which photo to submit, a choice made MULTIPLE times, and a choice that excluded Morgyn EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This is the second time in three years that sweet Morgyn has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago they didn't even include her in the class list."
The girl's name is Morgyn. Here's what her mom said about the event. The idea that it was a mistake is not credible. Someone thought an atypical child wasn't cute enough (wrong!) and cut them out.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) June 16, 2021
And it's not the first time they did it. pic.twitter.com/Ocm4nhDAlx
After Poll's post went viral and the school faced harsh criticism for its actions, Shoreline Junior High issued a statement calling the photo selection a mistake. "We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made," the school said in the statement. "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."
"When a child with disabilities is kept out of an activity, not only will it hurt them (and their families), but the typical children internalize this segregation as necessary. They will carry that lesson forward."— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) June 16, 2021
So that's what you're teaching.
Poll clarified that her family does not think the decision to leave Morgyn out purposefully malicious or discriminatory. She added that they have nothing but love toward her teammates and their families. "Morgyn could have chosen to be angry or upset, but instead she chose to be understanding, and forgiving," the 25-year-old said. "Those girls on the team are her friends, and they've been incredibly supportive through all of this. I think the important thing here is that we focus more on loving one another and being more inclusive. We can all learn from Morgyn in how she handled this with such a positive attitude... We cannot continue to shame one another when mistakes are made. There is no place for shame in all of this."