Sydney Spies’ Yearbook Photo

You don’t really need the photo that the girl submitted to the yearbook to “get” the story in this week’s issue (8 January 12), but she did release it to the media, so I’ll bring it to you — along with some additional details.

First, the story:

The Very Model of a Modern Protestor

In the picture Sydney Spies, 18, submitted for her Durango, Colo., High School yearbook, her hair flows between her bare shoulders to a top that ends high enough to reveal her midriff. After learning that the image had been rejected as a senior portrait, Spies, her mother, and other students held a protest, accusing school officials of censorship. But in a meeting with a reporter, the yearbook’s student editors claimed responsibility for the decision, adding their vote was unanimous. “We are an award-winning yearbook,” said editor Brian Jaramillo. “We don’t want to diminish the quality with something that can be seen as unprofessional.” Spies, however, said the editors had previously voted to publish the picture, and accused the administration of intimidating them into reversing their decision. (AC/Durango Herald, KUSA Denver) …The picture is hot, but it’s the defiance that’s really beautiful.

(Story and tagline by Alexander Cohen)

Media Blitz

Over the weekend, the Spies family said that Sydney and her mother, Miki Spies, had been flown to New York for an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, to which the young lady reacted with this comment: “I’m really surprised. It’s like international,” she said. “I’m really, really surprised. I didn’t think people would care this much about a little small-town Durango protest.”

And here it is: Student editors voted that publishing this would make the yearbook look “unprofessional.” Do you agree?

There’s nothing that screws up a protest more than finding out that the point you’re making is mistaken: the student editors insisted that they voted — unanimously — to reject the photo. It was not, as Spies and her mother said, the school administrators who nixed it. Yes, well….

Their stated reason was not that the photo violated the school’s dress code, which requires that tops “fully cover the chest, back, abdomen and sides of the student,” but rather that they have an award-winning yearbook, and they might be viewed as “unprofessional” by the awards committee for publishing such a photo. (They said it would be OK for the photo to be included as an advertisement in the yearbook pages, however.)

“Some people might think it’s a little bit sexy or inappropriate,” Miss Spies admitted. “But I think it’s artistic. I think it’s a good expression of who I am as a person. I’m a dancer, I’m trying to be a model.” Which, of course, has led locals charging that this whole thing is just a publicity stunt to help launch her modelling career. If so, that’s working nicely, eh?


“I feel like they aren’t allowing me to have my freedom of expression,” Spies said. “I think the administration is wrong in this situation, and I don’t want this to happen to other people.” She says there is no “formal policy” about yearbook photos, so banning hers is arbitrary. But that was before the student editors said they were the ones who made the decision, not school administrators.

Second Choice? OK, so maybe she really is unclear on the concept. This, according to several news sites, is the second photo she submitted after the first one was rejected. Um, yeah….

As to the charge that administrators pressured the editors, student yearbook editor Tevan Trujillo said, “The administration really had nothing to do with it. It was us.” There are five student yearbook editors: two boys and three girls. “Two years ago,” the Durango Herald notes, “yearbook staff made a similar decision when a male student wanted to run a picture of himself bare-chested as a portrait.”

The yearbook’s faculty adviser backs up that it was the editors’ decision. “I can tell the kids all of the things that will happen if they run it and all of the things that will happen if we don’t run it,” said teacher Tammy Schreiner. “But I know that if I personally pulled it, I would be as guilty of censorship as anyone else.”

“I was aware of the [student] editors’ final decision not to print the picture,” said Principal Diane Lashinsky, “and I support their decision.”

So what do you think? Were the student editors right, and show maturity with their decision and reasoning? Or should a student be allowed to have any photo at all printed in the yearbook, even if it violates the school’s dress code? Comments are open below.

August 2012 Update

You didn’t really think you had heard the last of Sydney Spies, did you?

Spies, still 18, and her mother Denise (known as “Miki”), 45, were both arrested early Monday (13 August 2012).

The charge against Miki: felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, misdemeanor obstructing a police officer, and misdemeanor resisting arrest. She was released later the same day on $10,000 bail.

The charge against Sydney: misdemeanor obstructing a police officer. She was also released on bail, but that only amounted to $500. The theme here seems to be photography; here are their mug shots:

The Spies’ mug shots (all the photos on this page can be clicked to see larger).

Police in Durango, Colo., were called to the Spies house on a report of a loud party with “numerous” underage partiers drinking alcohol. When officers arrived at 11:20 p.m. Sunday, “several” of the underage drinkers jumped a fence and ran. Police report they found bottles of liquor, lots of plastic cups filled with liquor, and a keg of beer. A police spokesman said when an adult homeowner provides a location for minors to consume alcohol, it is a crime.

Miki refused to identify herself to officers and tried to “herd the crowd of partygoers into her house,” the police report says. “Ms. Spies asked me why she needed to provide her identification,” wrote the officer, Darrell Robertson. “I explained to Ms. Spies that her being the homeowner along with the copious amount of alcoholic beverages present, and with numerous underage persons in attendance, she was contributing to the delinquency of minors, a felony offense.”

When he tried to detain her, she “broke into a full sprint for her front door,” the report notes. Officers chased her and arrested her after a “brief struggle.”


Sydney, meanwhile, allegedly tried to block an officer from coming into the house, leading to her arrest for obstruction. She refused to walk to a police car to be transported to jail, and was carried to the car. Later, officers say, unbuckled her seatbelt and tried to escape the vehicle. Officer Robertson said she “tried to kick me in the groin,” but missed.

It was Miki’s second arrest in two months. On June 24, she allegedly trespassed at a church, and refused to leave the children’s playground there because “the park” was “public property.” The church is private property. When an officer approached she allegedly tried to get away from him, and was arrested and charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, and obstructing a police officer.

“She claimed that the only reason I arrested her was because she was a lesbian and that she had never been arrested before,” the officer said in his report, also noting she was apparently under the influence of alcohol.

Once she arrived at the jail, Miki claimed the church only called the police because she was previously a minister there, but was forced out because she’s a lesbian. The church says she was never a minister there.

“We didn’t even know who she was when we called police at 5:55 in the morning,” said Pastor Steve Quisenberry.

Ms Spies told officers she would tell her “more than 6,000 Friends on Facebook” about her treatment. As of her release, she had fewer than 3,000 “friends” on the online service.

So Sydney, it looks like you have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. You can follow your mother down a dangerous road — it’s called Obliviocy Blvd. — or you can try a different path. Let’s see if you appear in another update for positive, or negative, reasons. It’s up to you. I’ll suggest clear and careful thought as you choose.

April 2016 Update

The Spies just can’t shake their addiction …to media attention. Of course, why not trade on the salicious attention while she has still “got it” — the advice in such situations is “flaunt it!”

So they are.

Sydney and her mother Miki ditched lil’ ol’ Durango for Amsterdam and started a company, Bitch House Prouctions. Their first project is a book: How to Be a Sex God: Make Women Worship You.

“After the flurry of hate Sydney and I received from the nation, we became super-spiritual,” Miki explained. “There is no question in my mind I manifest every major event in my life.” No question indeed! She released several photos of Sydney from the book (why of course it features a lot of photos of Sydney!) Here’s one example:

Built like a brick… never mind.

Yeah, looks like one from the yearbook shoot, doesn’t it? Same outfit, same hair and makeup, and same brick wall in the background. I just can’t understand why her yearbook photos were rejected.

“SpiesGirls are dedicated to assisting people understand their manifesting power,” says Miki, using their trademark allusion to the Spice Girls. Maybe that makes her “Old Spice”? I guess that leaves Sydney as Fenugreek Spice — smells sweet, but is actually bitter.

Whatever. Best of luck to the gals.


But Wait, There’s More!

In December 2018, mother Miki Spies reached out to me on Facebook with a “friend” request and this message:

Hello Mr. Randy! Just came across your Facebook wall and realized that we’re neighbors.

My daughter and I — my infamous daughter and I — just relocated back to Durango* after a four-year stint in Europe. Looks like you’re doing really cool things across the hill. Just wanted to reach out and thought we should be friends! Randy I hope to talk one day soon.

* (Durango is about 2-1/2 hours from me over three mountain passes, any of which can be closed during the winter due to avalanches. But close enough!)

My Facebook policy is I only accept friend requests from people I know personally and have met, so I didn’t accept hers. But I still wish her well.

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117 Comments on “Sydney Spies’ Yearbook Photo

  1. For our senior yearbook we could submit any photo. Quite a few people submitted baby photos, some of cartoon characters that look like them, some of nicks or handles that they were bullied with during school. But then again, there is a committee to judge a yearbook in our case and that one looks if the picture is appropriate, the picture really is a statement of what a person has grown into. If that is a depiction of what one has always been bullied with or a real depiction of what one has grown into during high school, by enduring puberty, zero tolerance, bullying classmates, tragic losses of friends, depression and sometimes the very real feeling that the world might be better off without one more frustrated teen, it is a statement of who one is.

    The whole idea of awards being given out to yearbooks is in every way as repressing as zero tolerance (imo), as it claims a false moral over the identities of individuals.

  2. It’s not really that good a portrait of her. The top is all wrong if she wants to show off her ‘assets’, since it does look like a black bar. She looks provocative, yes. If she really wants it in the yearbook, let it go in as one of the ads.

    It also seems rather premature for an 18 year old to make ‘statement’.

  3. A friend posted this yesterday — more a reference to the artsiness of the pic than the statement/debate going on. I think that yearbook pics should be the classic head shots. This is not “yearbook picture” material. There’s a vanity section, and if she wants to pay to put it in there, that’s where it should go, because that’s exactly what it is: vain. I mean, she’s a cute girl, and if she wants to model, get head shots and glamour shots and do it the right way. No one gets scouted from their school yearbook!

  4. The mother seems to think that this young girl needs lots of attention and deserves the attention. A yearbook does not belong in your portfolio if you want to get into the entertainment field. And the portfolio shots (which this really looks like) do not belong in a yearbook. The girl and mom need some reality checks.

  5. Citing “freedom of expression” (which isn’t in the Constitution — it’s freedom of SPEECH) is disingenuous. Claiming a freedom does not entitle one to impose what THEY want expressed on a medium they don’t own or control. Example; it is not denial of my freedom of speech or the press if Randy should reject something I want him to print in This is True. It’s HIS press (computer, email provider, etc.), so it’s his call. At the same time, I’m perfectly entitled to exercise my freedom of speech and the press by using MY press (computer, website, etc.) to publish it myself if I so choose.

  6. The underlying question here is whether students have the right to have the photo of their choice run with no editorial oversight whatsoever. My opinion is: No, they don’t. The yearbook is not the expression of a single individual, but the entire school. Student editors are chosen to represent the school and make content decisions. In this case, they made a decision that the photo in question was not in line with the standards they are aspiring to.

    The lack of a “formal policy” argument is indicative of a major problem with society as a whole where the thinking tends to be, “If someone hasn’t specifically stated I can’t do it, I should be able to do it.” Unfortunately, every boneheaded and/or crazy thing that might occur to someone to do hasn’t been thought of by the people who act as the final arbiters of what should be allowed. I would like to think there used to be a thing called common sense, but my elders surely have stories from the past that would dissuade me of that notion. The volumes of laws and warning labels that have been written suggest the same.

    Freedom of expression is another thing that people seem to misunderstand. The yearbook is a publication where a group of people has been given the task of deciding what goes in and how. If a similar situation occurred with the school newspaper, and a student’s picture, article, or letter was declined publication, we’d probably never hear about it. I’ll allow that there is a difference with a yearbook in that each student should have the right to have their picture appear in the yearbook, but that right is not absolute and an unacceptable picture should not be forced upon the yearbook’s editors and the rest of the school.

  7. I agree with Laurie in Georgia. Yearbook class pictures should be head-and-shoulder portraits — the “bust” shot. I’d never heard of students being allowed to submit their own portrait shot back when I was in school. The closest anyone came was picking which pose to use from the three or more poses the professional photographer took on “school picture day,” which were taken regardless, and whether or not your folks actually bought any prints.

  8. As Michael from Florida said, this is not her property. She, as an adult, is entitled to express herself all she wants so long as she does not infringe on the rights of others. Yearbooks are the property of the school and the district and their content is not controlled by students. They are an expression of the standards of the school and should project consistency through the years. If this were a random picture taken of her while on campus then it would represent how she appeared on campus when she was a student there and, thus, a valid memory for her and her peers. As a yearbook picture she should be held to the same standards as the other students. She has always been free to attend other schools if this one didn’t meet her requirements. People may be forced to attend school but they are not usually forced to attend a particular school. This young lady has a right to promote, at her own expense, any image of herself that she wants but she has no right to compel someone else to promote it for her. No doubt she will come to know this as she matures. Too bad the adults in her life were either too ignorant, immature or craven to educate her properly to prevent this from becoming an issue in the first place.

  9. Almost looks like she was photographed topless and a black mark was added later via photoshop. (a bad edit though)….

  10. The outfit she is wearing looks bizarre. Maybe she needs more of a fashion lesson. Maybe mom and dad need a few lessons too.

  11. I would guess there is a dress code at this school that would not allow the girl to wear this outfit to classes. The yearbook is a pictoral memory of that time. The outfit shouldn’t be in the yearbook then.

  12. As a teacher, I fully support this yearbook committee for rejecting this photo. I’m not an old prune (I’m quite a young teacher, actually), but I think I would be embarrassed to have a photo like this in my school’s yearbook. Students (and teachers) work incredibly hard on a yearbook, and shouldn’t have it marred with a student’s tawdry photo. The other comments are correct… if she wants to be a model, she should get professional head shots. Has either the student (or her mother) thought about what kind of backlash this photo would create? I can very easily see other students pointing her out as the school skank (sad, but it happens).
    It’s refreshing to see the students on the committee stand up for their beliefs and their ideals.

  13. So Dustin, in your opinion common sense is out of the window because of what your elders say?

    I’m 31, and I’ve learned to think for myself, yet I still wish that my parents wouldn’t have stopped me from making mistakes that I dearly wanted to make. Having a safety net all the time really stops one from starting to think on one’s own at some point.

    Freedom of speech is censored into freedom of expression?The law and most of all the first amendment of the US law applies everywhere, in congress, in newspapers, on the internet, on the workfloor, everywhere where there are people who want to exercise their right of freedom of speech, and all of a sudden it doesn’t apply to an ‘award winning yearbook’? Am I the only one who finds this strange?

    Noting this: In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), the Supreme Court extended free speech rights to students in school.

    Censorship, as prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibits governments from stifling speech. If I choose not to publish a comment here, no one can go crying a violation of their rights, as it’s my web site. Where this gets sticky is the school is run by the (local) government. That doesn’t entitle anyone to force anything they wish into the yearbook, though. -rc

  14. For the record, the decision the editors ultimately made is the one I would probably have made in their place: I would want a yearbook with a professional aesthetic, and were I the editor, that would be a decision I would be entitled to make.

    But Spies accuses the principal of intimidating the editors into reversing a previous decision to publish the picture, and while I can’t say whether her accusation is correct, it’s certainly the sort of thing that sometimes happens, and assuming she was told the editors had decided to publish it, there is some evidence for the accusation — especially when we consider the principal’s choice of words and her presence in the editors’ meeting with the newspaper reporter. If the accusation is true, and that’s a real if, then the principal is guilty of censorship, and of a far more despicable kind than if she had openly ordered the editors not to print the picture and publicly acknowledged the decision as hers.

    Alexander is the same Alexander identified as the author of the story. -rc

  15. IMHO, editors can choose to publish or not as they see fit. They are the people taking the rap for the publication!

    Anyway, my question is what is the black marking on the back of the model’s left leg? If that’s tatooing, I have a whole series of other questions that I would like to ask the model and her mother….

    It’s difficult to tell with such a small and low-res photo, but my guess is it’s the photographer’s mark. -rc

  16. WOW. This picture is not provocative at all, and nearly as mundane as a typical “Senior” picture, albeit somewhat unusual. Exactly at what point did this country progress from “Puritans” to Libertarians to “Puritans” again? Our success has always been based on free thinking and new ideas, and non-conforming. I’ve thought the “R”‘s (or conservatives) were retro but it seems what should be normal people have reverted to a “50”‘s mentality of societal expectations.

  17. As pictures go, it’s utterly harmless. Nothing provocative, sexual or explicit about it at all.
    However, it isn’t a yearbook picture; if most American yearbooks I’ve seen are anything to go by, head-and-shoulders shots are the order of the day.

    In my school’s Bac Book (the equivalent of a yearbook, but at the European School in Brussels, Belgium) each person got a page with a head-and-shoulders picture along with a larger, more character-related picture. That’s the format they went with; that’s what people’s pictures had to fit.

    If this school had a dress code or photo policy for the yearbook, then that’s the reason they should have cited for refusing the picture. Indeed, I don’t think it’s a relevant or appropriate picture for a yearbook, and so support them in refusing it — isn’t the whole point to show the face clearly? — but it should be for the right reasons.

  18. Yeah, that photo is really tacky. I would be embarrassed to have it in my school yearbook, and if I were one of the editors, I’d have done the same thing. They’re the editors, and it’s their job to edit, i.e. cut out, whatever they find to be not appropriate or in keeping with the rest of the publication.

    Miss Spies knows that some people feel the photo is inappropriate or sexy, and yet she thinks it’s her right to force objectionable content on others? Sad.

    On a side note, I’m surprised to see that nobody has brought in a comment about her apparent aspirations to be a Bond girl. *hums the Mission Impossible theme song*

    I haven’t spotted that particular aspiration myself. But hey: at least she has a goal in life. -rc

  19. Considering some of the things I’ve seen in yearbooks in recent years, this is not offensive. (Gang signs, “graffiti” t-shirts with swearing that the adult advisors apparently couldn’t read, etc.) On the other hand, she’s basically “letting it all hang out” in a way that, although she may be 18 and a legal adult (no, I don’t mean “legal” as in “no longer jail bait,” though one could certainly draw that conclusion…), I don’t think a photo like this is appropriate as the “portrait” photo in a yearbook. It certainly seems as if Sydney and her mother are trying to milk this controversy to promote her nascent modeling career.

    After all, if they wanted something appropriate as a “senior portrait” while simultaneously having “model appeal”, this one might have been a better choice. IMHO, of course!

    I can’t tell if that’s the same girl, but I suppose it is. -rc

  20. Personally I do not think the dress or the pose make her look good or sexy.

    That said, it also isn’t even close to offensive, so if she wants to run a pic like that, I think it should be allowed. A yearbook should not be made to get awards but to help the students remember how it was.

  21. The other writers have said it all. I agree with most of them. But I see all around me teens behaving and dressing in very provacative ways. Even grade school girls look as though they are practicing to be vamps.

    I was watching a TV show recently that is supposed to pick out the cutest/prettiest/most talented little girl, from age 5 months to about 12 years of age. Fine, the little girls are cute. The mothers are appalling. One mother told the reporter that she has her little girl — about 7 years old — watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I watch that too… but I wouldn’t let my granddaughters, ages 5 and 4 watch it, and their parents don’t let them watch the other one either.

    Morals are gone. Period.

  22. @vinny – why is it a “50s” mentality to want a professional publication? I agree the photo isn’t all that provocative baaed on what has become the norm in our society. Maybe that’s the problem. We’ve become so numbed to seeing flesh everywhere we turn that some people believe anything goes. However, I don’t know how anyone could look at this pose as appropriate for a yearbook photo.

  23. Peter has a good point. Does she have her arm inside a stretch top? Or is she wearing arm bands which match her top?

    As to not allowing the picture — much ado about nothing. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about; that’s what editorial boards do, and others have pointed out that a yearbook isn’t a public bulletin board.

  24. Back in my day, yearbooks were printed with only black ink, and the photos were so small that only head shots would fit. Miss Spies’ photo would have been unintelligible in that small space. So I’m surprised by the controversy.

    I would run it, if the general rule is that students submit their own photos. It’s not offensive, it’s not provocative. It is “who she was” in high school. I didn’t get along with the “cliques” that ran the school newspaper and the yearbook, so I’m uncomfortable with their imposition of their values here. You may have heard about how power corrupts, and all that.

    Award winning yearbooks? This is what we’ve come to? Really?

  25. The reasoning of the student editors is sound, given their stated goal of avoiding being viewed as unprofessional by the awards committee. That is rational thinking. However, it is impossible to know whether that goal is in accordance with their responsibilities as student editors. (In other words, were they hired to cater to the awards committee?)

    To Miss Spies’s assertion of censorship and the protest in general, the following assumes this is a public school.

    It is true that the yearbook is not Miss Spies’s property. However, as with all properties in the public domain, it can be argued that the yearbook is simultaneously owned by no one and everyone whose taxes are confiscated to pay for the school. This is one of the problems with “public goods.”

    As with Marxism (by the way, I do not use this term in a derogative sense, but only as a useful reference to Marxist class theory), no property is owned by the individual, and all property is owned by the collective (managed by a benevolent state, of course). This is the case with public schools. The reason this is relevant in this case is because notions of “right,” “wrong,” “appropriate,” and “inappropriate” will always be in flux with the changing values of the collective.

    Unfortunately, unanimous agreement among the collective is very unlikely. Some – and not necessarily a minority – will be left feeling slighted, and deprived of “rights” they mistakenly believe to be theirs.

    So, were the student editors right? Did their decision show maturity and sound reasoning? Sure. But I’m not the owner of the yearbook. Neither is Miss Spies or her mother. And neither are the principal, editorial staff, or gaggle of protesting students. The problem is, this system presupposes a mob mentality where anything goes — as we can observe in this case.

  26. Maarten-

    Please re-read my comment about common sense. My point is that we have the tendency to fantasize about how things were better in the past and that depravity and stupidity are new things. The funny thing is that when you talk to people who actually lived in the time, you learn that the same problems existed back then too. The real golden years were 20 or 30 years before that. The movie ‘Midnight in Paris’ does a great job of illustrating people’s misconceptions of the past.

    “there is nothing new under the sun.” -Ecc 1:9b

  27. Mom and daughter are in serious need of attention. Maybe she wants to be a pole dancer..jk Nice call on the part of students to not approve the pic. The second photo shows every inch of her, very provacative.

  28. It’s a picture of a basically pretty girl…dressed up like a hooker. On top of that, it clearly shows that she had the incredibly poor judgement to get a tattoo on the back of her leg.

    They made the right call in not printing it.

    See the previous comment regarding that very likely not being a tattoo. -rc

  29. I think many people here have hit the point, so I’ll be brief. If it is true that the student editors made the decision, without intimidation or other influence from the principal or other administrators, then it is a fair decision. The editors of the yearbook are the arbiters, and we should support their right to make (and stand by) their decision in the face of a protest and negative publicity.

    As a note, it is my understanding that the yearbook’s student editors are generally those who have chosen to be involved in the yearbook (often for multiple years), and have been elected from ‘staff’ to ‘editor’ by other yearbook volunteers. Also, yearbooks are usually funded by their sales and advertising, not by the school. These factors help to pull the yearbook out from being a publication ‘by the school’ to that of a publication related to the school that is sold and distributed at school. Even though the yearbook and school are ‘intertwined’, Spies’ free speech rights are probably no more implicated by the actions of the editors than atheist students at U of Florida had their right to freedom from religion implicated when Tebow prayed at football games.

    Great debate, Randy and posters!

  30. What I learned from this the importance of reading carefully. I missed her last name and thought she had spies in the yearbook committee who said the administration pressured them.

    It’s kinda cool how everything she says in a newspaper will be reported as “Spies said”. Makes it sound way more exciting than it is!

  31. I just wanted to say that while this photo is cute, it’s not yearbook appropriate. It’s not so much the outfit as it is the pose really. It looks too trashy for a high school girl and yearbook photos should reflect the person at school. I highly doubt that this girl would be allowed to wear something like that to school. If it violates school dress code, it should not be allowed in the yearbook, period.

  32. Did I read somewhere the student editors had voted against another student’s picture in a previous year due to the same reason? If that picture of a boy without his shirt on was voted out, I would believe they have already set the precedent for not allowing provacative pictures.

    You presumably read that on this page. -rc

  33. As a former HS yearbook editor I can address a couple of the statements/questions brought up by various people. Our yearbook was funded entirely by sales of the book itself and by advertising. I was selected as an editor my senior year after serving on the staff the previous two years. The selection process involved both the endorsement of the yearbook advisor and school principal as well as selection by the remainder of the staff.

    Our yearbook was not an award-winning publication, but my co-editor and I still made decisions on what we felt was appropriate content. Thirty years from now, I’m not sure that young lady would want to be thumbing through that yearbook and have her child or grandchild see her dressed and posed in this manner.

  34. The Supreme Court has held that student publications are subject to editorial review by school administrators and that the administrators choice to censor school sponsored publications, such as school newspapers, yearbooks, and plays, does not infringe on the freedom of speech or press of the students.

    From the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the matter of HAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL. v. KUHLMEIER ET AL: “Accordingly, we conclude that the standard articulated in Tinker for determining when a school may punish student expression need not also be the standard for determining when a school may refuse to lend its name and resources to the dissemination of student expression. Instead, we hold that educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”

    I was on both the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and our teacher required everyone that participated in the publications to study this case along with a few others so that we would understand our rights as a publishing group and the school administrator’s rights to censor the publications. Students do not have all of the same rights that adults have, and even though the student in question is 18, she is still a student and subject to the laws that apply to public school students.

  35. Hazelwood probably answers the question whether it would be constitutional under current Supreme Court doctrine for the principal to order the editors to cut this photo. It doesn’t grant administrators carte blanche to censor, but censorship in this case would almost certainly be defensible by the (outrageous) Hazelwood standard.

    However, the Colorado state legislature, like many other state legislatures, has passed a statute granting Colorado public school students more or less the rights they would have had as a constitutional matter if the Supreme Court had decided Hazelwood correctly, i.e., the other way.

    Moreover, even if there were no such statute, and even if the Court had read the Constitution correctly in Hazelwood (and since there is no reasonable prospect of overturning Hazelwood anytime soon, it must be treated as correct for practical purposes), that would not resolve the MORAL question. Because one has a power it does not follow that one’s use of it is always right, nor that others are wrong to protest that use (or that power).

    In any event, the principal in this case has denied censoring the yearbook — probably because doing so would have violated the state statute.

  36. First comment that I ‘have’ to make is to Deborah from San Jose, I remember my high school years quite vividly, I also know a few others who are in high school now. I can only say that you can’t tell a book by its covers. For instance, killing oneself is quite a statement, as is getting pregnant during high school, you get to judge it as you get to witness it, are you sure it’s premature even if you don’t know the circumstances?

    To Dustin from California: I have to say that I really like the phrase that went round on facebook a little while ago: “common sense has become so rare, it’s practically a super power”. Apparently, common sense cannot be taught anymore, because people nowadays are too scared of making any mistake; one cannot learn from mistakes anymore because they’re liable to haunt you for the rest of your life. Such as people getting a criminal record for bringing something to school that could be used as, or looks like, a weapon. This trend of overestimating every threat hasn’t blown over to the Netherlands yet, but is becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

    Of course I am generalising (or trolling); these things haven’t become commonplace yet. I hope the school Joshua from Texas still makes committee members study the Tinker case as it’s an important precedent.

    Finally I do apologise for not researching what is meant by a ‘yearbook’ in the USA, there was/is a profound cultural difference between NL and the US in this case; in the US it’s a big deal, where people work really hard to make it look as great as possible, whereas over here (at least when I went to high school) it’s just a paperback photo album with a few nice words and recollection of what each class was like to teach to. Mine is somewhere in a stuffy drawer.

    But really, all this could have been solved in a much more elegant manner; assume people know about the terms and conditions, someone submits a photo that is inappropriate to those terms, ask once if they’re sure, then when publishing the yearbook, replace the inappropriate picture with that of a cow with full udders, or, if one wants to taunt the subject, with a non picture saying ‘camera shy’. Let them finally learn from their decisions, let them finally be taught commons sense.

    I don’t think you have a cultural misunderstanding: here, yearbooks are of utmost, end-of-the-world importance. Within a few days of receipt, they are put in a shelf or packed in a box to be looked at …never again. -rc

  37. I live in Los Angeles and work for a family with two teenagers. When I pick them up at school, I am constantly amazed at the state of undress the girls are allowed to dress in. Back in my day, everything had to be covered…skirts to the knee, no mid-drift tops, no shorts, etc. Now they are all in shorty shorts and mini-skirts and halter tops with cleavage. But…this is La La Land.

    If this picture was censored here, I could see the uproar. But, again, because this is L.A., nobody would even look twice at this photo….let alone think of censoring it.

    If the gal doesn’t already have a good agent and publicist, she better get one….because really, this is such a non story when it comes to the fame game.

  38. When my daughter was 17 she wouldn’t have even considered posing for such a picture for use in a yearbook. Had she posed in that state of provocative undress, I would have confiscated the negative and all copies.

    Gets a bit more complicated when they’re 18, though, eh? -rc

  39. Just FYI – I think her “top” is actually a scarf. You can see the fringe or tassels on the ends laying against the yellow skirt at the top of her bent leg.

    Looks like a tube top to me. -rc

  40. Am I the only one who noticed that the reason the editors gave for not printing the photo was just as good as (or better than) this girl’s excuse that she wants to be a model? If any of those editors want a future in a field that involves publishing, then this yearbook would be considered experience and could be used as an example of their work. An aspiring model can get her photo published anywhere, at any time. What shows up in her yearbook will never even be considered when she is looking for work. This will be a part of the record for the editors, though, and that is a far more important matter. Having a professional attitude now is possibly one of the best things they can do for themselves if they want to work later.

  41. Sorry Sidney– this is just not appropriate for a yearbook.

    Randy- re your comments about the “longevity” of high school yearbooks — I “escaped” nearly fifty years ago, and I still have and occasionally look through my yearbooks from Grades 9 through 12.

  42. Rene said “… it also isn’t even close to offensive, so if she wants to run a pic like that, I think it should be allowed. A yearbook should not be made to get awards but to help the students remember how it was.”

    While a yearbook is made to help students remember their high school years, it is also a teaching venue for students to learn leadership and decision making, photography, interviewing, writing, layout & design, creative thinking, team/staff management, goal setting, advertising… even sales.

    Having their work judged by industry standards of excellence is valid, as are getting a good grade for yearbook class or any other class. There are State and National competitions for other creative outlets (band, choir, art, sports, writing, etc.) through which students learn skills and strive for excellence. Parents and the community want a winning sports team — why not a winning student publication? When they are judged, for better or for worse, it is a reflection upon the school. I, personally, want students to be challenged to be excellent.

    As a former high school and college yearbook editor, I think the student editors made a good decision. They are responsible for the content of the yearbook and what they publish will, in part, shape how and what students remember about high school later in life.

    I think it’s wonderful that Miss Spies already has professional goals and dreams, however it seems she may need some advice on how to accomplish her modeling career goals. While a yearbook probably won’t end up in her portfolio, it very well could end up in one of the editor’s portfolios as an example of their work and knowledge… or to back up the awards they earned for their hard work and careful editing.

    These student editors now have an advantage, thanks to Miss Spies, in that they are probably much more knowledgable than the average high school student about journalism law issues and talking to the press.

  43. After careful scrutiny I must agree that the mark at her leg is on the image, not a tattoo. If the kids had said, “The yearbook policy states that all pictures must conform to the school dress code” they might have a leg to stand on. Absent that, and the fact that the photo does not violate statute or copyright, they should have allowed Ms. Spies to make her own choices, for good or ill. If the yearbook policy allows for student-submitted photographs, then they should bite the bullet and accept whatever image (in every sense) the student wishes to memorialize. Their blathering about concern over an ‘award winning’ status is all smoke and mirrors, winning awards is not the purpose of a yearbook. Perhaps they, too, are angling at a way to profit from their efforts?

    That said, a vast majority of the comments here are based on personal taste, or lack thereof…which are irrelevant to the discussion. Too many exhibit the same nanny-state mentality that leads to the zero-tolerance policies that RC and like-minded readers (including myself) abhor.

  44. I won’t lie – I like the photo. As a photographer (and a man) I think the photo of her is well done, attractive and even sexy. *But* … Does it belong in her Yearbook? No, I don’t think so. The yearbook is a representation of the school and the alumni as a whole. It’s not a springboard for her personal vanity photos. Not to mention, while it isn’t “official policy,” it logically follows that if students must adhere to a dress code at the school, that that same dress code applies to photo representations of students in any school produced medium.

    I think the yearbook editorial team made the correct decision. A photo that could be mistaken as an ad for a call-girl is simply inappropriate for a High School yearbook. If she wants that photo published so badly, she can create a personal modeling portfolio, or even a personal website on which to publish it. Unfortunately, she’s getting the free publicity for the photo that she wanted in the first place.

  45. Hmm, maybe my viewpoint is different after years as a writer, and having been involved in school publications back in the day, but it seems that a lot of people seem to confuse editing with censorship.

    Although it appears most people here would disagree with me, it’s perfectly valid for the editors to decline to publish a particular picture (or article, for that matter) simply because it does not fit the desired style of the publication in question. In fact, editors do it all the time. And in this case, I think it’s a better reason than ‘because that’s against the dress code’ (which has little or nothing to do with a yearbook photo) or ‘a bare-chested guy was turned down one year’. The editors are saying that they judged the photo on its on merits, and have decided it’s not appropriate. That’s their job.

    Freedom of speech has never meant that everyone is required to provide you with the platform of your choosing, whenever and wherever you wish, in whatever form you wish. No one stopped her from having the picture taken. No one has said the picture has to be destroyed, or that it can never be published. It simply has not been accepted for this publication.

    Oh, and for the people that had a problem with the idea of awards being given to yearbooks? Just like many other school activities, student journalists also take part in competitions, and those competitions can be fierce. Student journalists rightfully take it very seriously, just like student athletes take games very seriously. The primary purpose of school newspapers and yearbooks isn’t to entertain the students who read them, it’s teaching journalism to the students on the publication staff.

  46. Please do me a favor. Paste this picture to your desktop and have someone who has no clue about this whole story look at it. And ask: “hey, what do you think this picture is for?”

    I don’t think yearbook picture will come in the first 10, 50 or 100 answers.

    Have we been so overwhelmed with sexually suggestive pictures or attire that this passes for absolutely normal?
    As to the goal of this young lady, I’m pretty confident she’ll end up with a modelling contract.

    I’m just sad that nowadays, we make such a fuss about this event. Isn’t there anybody who’s more interesting, promising or worth publishing about in that class? I hope I live long enough to see what every one in this yearbook becomes 30 years from now. If she remains the most prominent member from that 12th grade, well it’s a sad, sad world, and it tells more about our society than this stupid case.

    A few decades back, this much fuss would have been about a student making an anti-war, anti-pollution, or anti consumerism/capitalism statement in his yearbook. there the freedom of speech/expression debate would have had some relevance. The right to be futile, stupid, vain, and gratuitously titillating? Sure! If this is why your grandma burned her bra for!

    I guess this girl’s role model is somewhere between Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. (I wonder what THEIR yearbook pictures looked like!)

  47. If (and that’s a mighty big “IF”) she was allowed to wear this outfit or something similar to school, then the picture should be allowed as this is a yearbook and filled with memories of how things were, not how we might have wanted them to be. However, according to the quoted school dress code, this was not appropriate school dress. Since she could not have worn it to school, the editors were right to deny it. Also, for those who don’t know, anyone trying to enter the field of journalism would include work done on yearbook projects and allowing something like this could reflect badly on them. So Ms. Spies is directly affecting the futures of those involved with this yearbook.

    Think about how you might react to someone potentially taking your future.

  48. There is only one thing that strikes me as stunningly stupid in all of this. It is not the fuss playing out in the school; that seems inevitable. Some high school students (and parents thereof) are immature in their thought process and demonstrate it by not thinking beyond their initial thoughts on any matter. Some high school students (and staff) think beyond their own initial thoughts and may or may not prove to be mature in doing so. To me the stunningly stupid piece of this is that NBC’s Today Show thought that this girl and her parents deserved national recognition and air time. It is a waste of airtime.

    More so than filling time letting you talk about it here? -rc

  49. This is interesting. Living in a country where the concept of a Yearbook is a luxury, this is sad and amusing. I am among the fortunate few that attended a school with a yearbook AND a school magazine. The school magazine was by the students FOR the students, this image would belong in that type of a publication, under whatever section the editors deemed appropriate. The image does NOT belong in a school’s yearbook. The yearbook serves as a formal record of the operation of the school for the year that it is published for. It belongs to the school, the editors, even if they are the same people that do the magazine or other publications, have to apply a different standard to the yearbook. Very simple.

    People seem to be getting worked up about the right to expression, the freedom of this and that, etc, let’s be realistic. There is no right to individual expression in a private publication that has a specific purpose (to chronicle a shool’s year of service to its community and record the graduates) even if the school is a public school. If this was some “other” sort of publication this would not be a debate. The student has the right AND obligation to be included in the yearbook as a matter of record, she should not have the right to dictate the manner of that inclusion.

    With regards to the comment on yearbooks being able to win awards???? on what basis, what is the criteria? public schools only or private too? is entry voluntary or mandatory? and who decides??

    You don’t seem boggled that there are school sport competitions. Why are you bothered by a competition that actually values brains over brawn? -rc

  50. My spouse and I both have our yearbooks and I’m surprised how much we have re-established contact via facebook with some of the people on it. Given the exclusivity of the yearbook, besides the mug shot section, give equal space to how people want to be remembered and how people want to remember. As any teacher can tell you, a girl who wants to enjoy her body and its power, simply shucks the sweater after walking around the corner. Remove slander, nudity and obscenity and then let the yearbook (in whatever media) show living, breathing and omigawd… slightly sexual teens. If its incompatible with parents / educators… maybe the project needs to move off campus.

  51. I’m concerned about the underlying mentality that prompts this young lady to want to use a f…me picture. I guess she wanted her 15 minutes of fame — and she has gotten it. She will probably have a reality show next season.

  52. Yep; a bit slutty to me; not appropriate for any school. Looks like a partially nude shot with editing at the top part; I agree, head shots only like most year books.

  53. I’d like for someone in the business (modeling) to weigh in on whether or not a picture like this, in a yearbook, would do her career any good. My opinion, as someone on the outskirts of show business, is that she’s pretty but not exceptional. There are thousands of girls out there who look exactly like her. Maybe someone who actually knows what it takes to make it as a fashion model, as opposed to a centerfold, would see something that I don’t.
    I say the editors made the right choice. Just sayin’.

    Yeah, I’d love to hear from a successful model’s agent too, but doubt we will. -rc

  54. Doesn’t matter who rejected the photo or why. This is a poor presentation — tan lines are visible on her chest in front of her left shoulder. Reject the photo for poor quality and presentation failure.

  55. There has long existed a standard for senior picture for yearbooks, I agree that this picture does not meet that standard. That does not mean that the picture can not be in the yearbook somewhere else.

  56. I did not get the same vibes from Gandalf in South Africa’s comments that you seem to have. I don’t really think that he was objecting to awards for yearbooks but genuinely asking for particulars of how they work.

    As for the main question, I don’t think it is really relevant whether any of us would have made the same decision that these student editors did. It was their decision to make, based on their own situation. I particularly agree with the others that have made the point that any of these editors who go into publishing will want to be able to present their student work as representative of what they are likely to do in the future. They have made their decision (for whatever considerations) and this is now representative of the kind of decision-making they are prone to make.

  57. A nice, yet somewhat mundane picture of a pretty girl. Do these kids and administrators lead such shallow lives that it only takes something such as this to get their dander up? Making a mountain out of a mole hill for certain.

    You seem to be confused about who is making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s not the editors who marched in front of the school with protest signs! -rc

  58. This young woman has learned several important things. Careers are good things, publicity is necessary to success, free publicity is even better, and of course, sex sells. All-American.

  59. I’ve held back from comment only because my view has already been stated by others. I really don’t care about the moralistic value of the picture; whether I agree with it is immaterial. The young lady is making an issue of her “freedom of expression” which has not been violated. She’s free to make it as she chooses, and no one else is forced to be her conduit.

    Alexander did make a connection that a prior approval was overturned by a form of censorship, undue pressure, and IF true, I would find that reprehensible as, apparently, does he. However, there is no evidence to substantiate the lady’s claim, and anyone can make an accusation. Based on that, I have to support the staff. Only when the lady can back up her claim will I entertain an opinion differently.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I think that comes under the category of “facts not supported by evidence.”

  60. Re comment by Mike, Dallas, Jan. 14:

    Mike says “there is no evidence to substantiate the lady’s claim.” Here is the evidence as she presents it:

    1. Before she was told the picture would not be published, she was told it was, by someone (as I recall) on the yearbook staff. That’s the evidence she had before she protested. Now, we have only her word for it, so one might object on grounds of hearsay, but in an informal setting, I’m not going to consult the Federal Rules of Evidence before I say that we should consider a person’s report of what she was told by the people in charge of making or conveying a decision as evidence of what decision was made.

    2. The principal referred to the editors’ final decision, from which we can infer that there was another decision that turned out not to be final. The principal’s statement that she supports the final decision also tends to suggest, though it does not strictly imply, that she did not support the earlier decision.

    Am I convinced? No. That’s why I haven’t formed a judgment one way or the other as to whether the staff was intimidated. But there’s enough evidence to justify saying that there’s a real possibility that that’s what happened.

    Of course, on #1, assuming it did happen the question remains, was the person who said that a) correctly informed, and 2) authorized to make such a statement? -rc

  61. I have to laugh. I broke the school dress code in my day citing freedom of speech. Whatever, I was young. I have many pics not unlike this that I can look back on 20 years later and think about how cute I looked. I don’t really care what others thought of me. I was young having fun and I turned out perfectly fine. Graduated summa cum laude from college, successful career, great family. I dont hide those pics from my child either.

    With all that said, I support the editors’ decision. I never even wanted to be in my yearbook so I skipped out on picture day and refused to submit a senior photo. But I understand they have standards for their publication and if I had the desire, I would have created my own yearbook with my own standards. Preppy pictures would not have been allowed.

  62. @Mike from Dallas: I think more like ‘Allegations not supported by evidence.’ A fact, by definition, needs no evidential support.

  63. Now with all the “exposure” she has received across your nation for this story, I wonder how long before she gets exposure of another type in a publication such as Playboy!

  64. Personally, I think her pose is as bad, if not worse than, the outfit. It’s definitely not appropriate for a high school yearbook. We had a choice of which picture we wanted posted when I was in high school, too. However, it was a choice between 2 or 3 head-and-shoulders shots taken by a professional photographer, not a full-bodied ‘questionable’ photo.

  65. It don’t know about how it would affect the pro look of the year-book, but (and I am sure she is a nice seweet innocent girl) I think it make her looks a bit like a pro!

  66. I don’t really care about the picture or the yearbook. That is up to the students and school and frankly, what happens in Durango, should have stayed in Durango. But….sex sells and this is a prime example of that. This tempest in a teapot has caused me to just roll my eyes, but there are 2 issues that keep popping up for me.

    1. I find it surprising that many of the people that read This is True seem so tradition-bound. ‘In MY day, we didn’t have photos like this in our yearbook’, ‘this is inappropriate for a yearbook’. My quotes marks aren’t meant to be actually quotes, just a means to set those feelings off from my comments. I have always see Randy’s audience as able to think outside the box and I am a little surprised at the responses of some posters.

    2. The anti-woman comments ‘slutty’, ‘pole dancer’, ‘hooker’. Really? Does a woman (in this case still a girl in my book, but that makes it even worse) that uses her sexuality to potentially earn a living deserve to be looked as something less than the rest of us?

    I’m NO fan of the Paris Hiltons and Kardashians of this world, but I believe it is their right to earn a living however they can. And it is my right to buy or not buy what they are selling.

    But I was so disturbed by the comments about being ‘cheap’ and sleazy’ that I had trouble focusing on the primary issue.

  67. To Vicki, CO:

    Are you saying that the readers of “This is True” should not call it like they see it? Like it or not, there are very good reasons why people don’t believe it is appropriate for a young girl to pose like this. It encourages pedophilia, for one thing. Sex might sell, but there is a time and a place for everything, and this is not the time or the place.

    Think about it: you say that it is your right to buy or not buy what the women of this sort are selling, but you refuse to extend that right to the other high school students who are looking forward to their yearbooks?

  68. Well, I’m older, so we were all required to have pictures taken by same photographer, females using same ‘drape’, and males in suits. But, I’d have to say — she does look like a “professional.”

    You had to be draped?! Sounds like the way they do mug shots in some jurisdictions. -rc

  69. Geeze, if the youth of today aren’t a little bit rebellious, what does that hold for the future? Head and shoulder shots with the little string of pearls is SO passe. Publish the photo!!!

  70. Without a sampling of other submissions that weren’t rejected there is no way to tell if this was appropriate. People who project it as sexual and imagine issues with the girl for enjoying her beauty might spend more time looking inward.

    It seems to violate the school dress code. That would make the publication appear unprofessinal, allowing such vioaltions. In the absence of real data the reason appears valid.

    Her reason for fighting, to prevent such a thing from happening to others, pretty much confirms she does want to be a model, however, as it is a trite and meaningless as the standard “World Peace” response in beauty contests.

  71. I saw this on the news. thought it was a topless photo with the “offending parts” blocked out. if it had been any other color but black, it would have worked, and gotten in the book i bet!

  72. I do not see anything inapproriate with the clothes she’s wearing. Unprofessional? If she was at work, or going to a job interview, even if she went to school dressed like that would be inappropriate. But for a yearbook photo, not at all. Skirt is not too high, she’s not showing any cleavage. I do think the committee is acting a bit prudish. As for the comments referring to this girl as “slutty”, or “hooker”. If you think the clothes she’s wearing is slutty, you need to go out more often.

  73. It is a yearbook photo. No matter what, after 5 years it will be embarrassing. I wish the yearbook committee rejected my 80s photo with the snapped collar and the mullet.

  74. I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but the pictures of Ms. Spies will be printed, albeit in the advertisement section (source). The “About-Face” article here is a little of a misnomer, because from the beginning, the editors said the photo could be published in the advertisement section.

    Now here is a little aside: This isn’t the first time Sydney’s mom, Mimi, has turned up in the Durango News (here). I think the family is a bit of publicity hounds. You may scratch your head a little if you follow the above link. Have fun exploring!

    Yes, I mentioned the ad aspect on this page, too. -rc

  75. See now that I read that other article about the students being asked to submit a photo that represents themselves, I am more on Sidney’s side. I like photo option #2 above. But I don’t know the direction the yearbook is going with the photos, and why Sidney’s photos would be rejected besides the school dress code violation. I wonder if she photoshopped a shawl or something to cover her shoulders if that would be acceptable. Without understanding what direction the editors are going with the pictures, hard to tell what IS acceptable that allows students to break the mold and represent themselves.

  76. “Censorship, as prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibits governments from stifling speech. If I choose not to publish a comment here, no one can go crying a violation of their rights, as it’s my web site. Where this gets sticky is the school is run by the (local) government. That doesn’t entitle anyone to force anything they wish into the yearbook, though. -rc”

    Now this is an interesting angle on the concept: While it is debatable that the stifling of free speech is only prohibited by the government (I would have interpreted it to mean that the government is obliged to prevent the stifling, by anybody, of free speech, by anybody else: But I am not a legal scholar.)

    As I understand it, Freedom of Speech means you are allowed to think, and say, anything you like, and should not be punished or persecuted for thinking or saying it. And it is the government’s job to ensure that this is so.

    It does NOT mean you are entitled to unlimited and unfettered amplification, publication, or even, for that matter, attention.

    No, that’s indeed not what the Constitution says, or means. -rc

  77. To Tony, Japan:

    Your interpretation would result in disaster. For example, I do not allow foul language in my house. The government has no right to interfere with my household rules, so long as they are within reason, and that one is certainly within reason. If someone uses foul language in my house I have a perfect right to kick them out of my house. This is a private home, not a public forum. Likewise, Randy Cassingham has a perfect right to keep posts he doesn’t want to post off of this blog. He doesn’t even have to have a reason for it. Even though it is a public forum, it is privately owned. He cannot, however, prevent people from posting their opinions elsewhere, and I cannot prevent someone with a filthy mouth from using all the bad language they want to next door.

    This isn’t strong enough, actually. Your household rules do not have to be “within reason,” they simply have to not be illegal. -rc

  78. Can you say “trashy” or “slutty” pose? Her aspirations to be a dancer must include a pole or outfit sans a top. No wonder the editors didn’t want their product to look like a mens magazine.

  79. On the matter of the First Amendment, here’s what it actually says:

    “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    First thing this means is that no matter how hard Tony in Japan tries to interpret it, all it does is prohibit the government from making any laws to (and, by extension, giving its agents any powers to) infringe freedom of speech and, arguably, expression.

    It also occurs to me that there’s a loophole — it only says *Congress* can’t legislate to that extent. Now, I’m not well up on US legal intricacies, but wouldn’t that mean there’s still the option to limit freedoms by means of Executive Orders (or whatever the US equivalent to a statutory instrument would be)? I mean, clearly it goes against the intent of the Amendment, but theoretically it should be within its letter.

    …yeah, that’s all I had to say. It really does just say the government can’t stop you saying things (which they do anyway, but still) — it doesn’t stop private people saying “We’re not going to accept that picture for our book”.

    (I still think both pictures are harmless; they’re not *good*, but they’re harmless, and anyone who finds them lewd or suggestive must have led a very sheltered life. But the editor’s decision is final, so I don’t see why it even became an issue.)

    By other laws and court decisions, “Congress” has been extended to pretty much every governmental body — so states can’t infringe on your rights either. -rc

  80. To RC:

    Yes, that is true and I considered wording it that way, but it amounts to a circular argument: I can legally make any rule that isn’t illegal! Within reason, though, is still not a good way to describe it, so I acknowledge your point. I just couldn’t think of a better way to put it.

    🙂 -rc

  81. Yes, Andrew UK, the Incorporation Doctrine of the 14th Amendment has held lower governments to the rights specified in the Bill of Rights. But it’s not a blanket incorporation. Each one must be argued in its own setting to be incorporated, the most recent being McDonald v. Chicago over the 2nd Amendment.

    And the beauty of Rights, Denise, yes, an individual does not need to justify a claim to it. It can be simply because it IS a right. “The claim and exercise of a right cannot be converted to a crime.” ~ Miller v. US. For example, the refusal to consent to an unwarranted search does NOT constitute reasonable suspicion of a crime. You can make ANY rules in your home that you want, without justification. It’s either legal or illegal, and nothing more matters.

  82. I agree to what Dustin said above. Apparently the mom and daughter don’t know anything about the rules of school. Year book photos of students are head shots only. No “butt” or “tit” about it!

  83. Since they will accept it as an paid ad, it follows they do not find it unsuitable for their publication.

    This, to me, kills their argument against.

    No. There’s a huge difference between editorial matter (what is vetted and placed by the editors) and advertising space. That’s not just true of yearbooks: it’s also true in newspapers, magazines, my newsletter, and web sites, including this one. -rc

  84. Our local school district requires all seniors to have the same style photos submitted — guys in a tux (faux) that is provided by the photographer, and the gals in a black drape to make it look like an evening gown. Head and shoulder shots only. Seniors are welcome to get senior portraits for themselves but the yearbook photos all look the same. Saves a lot of arguments.

  85. I don’t find either photo to be particularly flattering. Both poses look uncomfortable and the falling-off clothes make her look thick-waisted. She could choose better photos if she wants to promote a modeling career.

    That said, I do think the yearbook needs to frame a policy BEFORE they solicit photos.

  86. As one person that commented on your comment to my comment pointed out, I was in fact wondering out loud at the mechanics around competing yearbooks. I wish we had something like that when I was in school…all those years ago! As for cerebral competitions, I am definitly all for it, especially given that I was captain of the chess team, rated nationally, and head of the electronics club, along with some sports too, just for balance!

    I don’t know about the mechanics. When I was on my yearbook staff years ago, there either were not competitions, or my school didn’t participate in them. -rc

  87. Well, now it’s clear where Sydney gets her inclination toward poor choices. That apple didn’t fall far from its tree.

  88. Looking at her booking photo, she has a lazy eye on the right and will never make it as a model. So….she really should consider other career alternatives.

    Maybe it’s alcohol-related nystagmus. -rc

  89. You didn’t have to be a genius to have known that this girl didn’t get her horrible judgment on her own…she had “help”. One can only hope and pray that somewhere along the way she finds a decent mentor…otherwise, it seems, she doesn’t have much of a chance. *Sigh*. The old saw applies here: “You need a license to drive a car, but not to raise a child…”. :-/

  90. Ya know, I’m all for passive resistance (in spite of my conservative leaning), even if for nothing more than to prevent complacency to the status quo. But to do it successfully requires focus and finesse. This woman is working WAY too hard at it, and all to her own detriment; definitely shooting herself in the foot just to prove that she doesn’t need it. (There! I showed YOU!) And this is the role model for the younger one?

    Let me gaze into your future, Sydney…. Hmm, I see hardship and heartbreak. Even if you find someone who does have the focus and finesse to provide everything you think you deserve, you’ll still undermine yourself by obstructing him when you demand that he do it your way.
    Everyone has a purpose in Life. Looks like yours is just to serve as a horrible warning to others.

    But she still has time to choose a different path. -rc

  91. I’m not sure at what age you’re considered an adult where she lives, but if she’s still considered a minor, then why is this mother still allowed to have custody of her daughter? Sydney is only 18 and she’s already been arrested, thanks to her mother. I’m sure that this way of life didn’t just start with that particular party. BOTH of these women need professional help. The mother needs to get help for her alcoholism and the daughter needs someone to help her choose the right path to take in life in order to become a responsible adult. Having drinking parties for under-aged teenagers is NOT being taught to become a responsible adult. The poses in those pictures gives you an idea of which direction this girl has been taught to take. I actually feel sorry for Sydney. She only knows what she’s been taught. I just hope that someone responsible will come into her life before it’s too late.

    In the U.S., you’re considered an adult upon reaching 18, but still cannot drink alcohol until 21. As such, she’s allowed to live anywhere she is welcome, including her mother’s home. I don’t think that equates to mom having “custody” of her. She wasn’t arrested thanks to her mother, but thanks to her own actions. Perhaps you’re referring to her mother’s influence and behavior modeling, and on that we definitely agree! -rc

  92. What Kris in Alabama and Jon in the U.K. said x 2. Ridiculous. But along with derision, it’s just sad sad sad.

  93. I’d say that the ‘Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ except I think it’s closer to ‘the dump doesn’t fall far from the “bleep”.’

  94. Reminds me of the parties we had in high school…over forty-five years ago.

    Usually, one or more of the girls would have a “mature” boyfriend who would supply the necessary credentials to buy the booze. Someone would have out, out of town, or simply out of touch parents to supply the venue. The police would show up when the neighbors complained (some felt it might be revenge or envy), but they would never make it inside. At most, the police would find a beer can or similar evidence in the yard. Some kids (and perhaps a parent) would run, but none that I recall were ever caught or even chased.

    A resident would have to claim ownership of the house — perhaps show a driver’s license or other ID — but the cops seemed to feel that there were more important things needed to be done to “keep the peace.” The usual instructions were to quiet down, start to wind up the party and don’t make the neighbors call us again.

    I am glad to see things haven’t changed that much.

    Oh, to be young again.

    Ah, but things have changed. Now, the stakes are higher. -rc

  95. It is not okay to bring up a child whose personal ambition seems to be to become a porn star. I feel bad about this. I hope Sydney can turn it around…but that takes a support network of loving friends and family. And when one gets to where she’s at now, it’s not because one actually grew up in such a support network. But I would not be surprised to hear of “Sydney Spyce” in the news again….

    Alas, neither would I. -rc

  96. Yearbook policies vary a lot by school, even within the US.

    I grew up in what was then a fairly generic suburb. Yearbook photos for underclassmen were the generic headshot taken by the school photographer, but Seniors instead usually submitted their own Senior Portraits.

    The picture had to be designated a Senior Portrait, so the school had veto power, but the portraits clearly weren’t limited to what you wore in school or at school activities. (If I recall correctly — and I might well not — the dress code placed limits on sports equipment in class, but not in portraits — even if the sport in question wasn’t sponsored by the school.)

    Because the yearbook was an official school publication, they were subject to Constitutional limits on censorship. That doesn’t mean they had to publish everything; time, place and manner restrictions are still valid. “No nudes” was perfectly valid, “No slogans insulting the President” would not have been. (And if I recall correctly, the actual policy was therefore “no slogans”, so as to avoid censoring specific slogans.)

    My guess is that Spies first photo would have gotten some informal discouragement, but that if she had insisted, it would have been published.

    As for Spies being unclear on the concept because of her second photo … it may instead be evidence that she really did believe her first photo was accepted, and then later rejected for violating the dress code. So she reacted by submitting something that was sure to annoy the censors even more, despite technically meeting the dress code.

  97. I went to high school with a lovely young lady who WAS a professional model. Her picture in the year book was just like everyone else’s. Head and shoulders, pure and simple.

  98. I always thought that a mothers job was to encourage their children to be the best they could be, its sad when your own parent thinks porn star or sleezy model is the the best you can be. At 18 she still has time to stop and think about where she wants her life to go, but I suspect she will carry on and follow her mothers examples and blame other people for why she never made it or when things go wrong. Oh and as for the second photo, I have seen that pose used a lot, but usually in the queue for the Ladies.

  99. Graduation is a serious accomplishment & should be treated in the yearbook with respect & dignity. This young lady is headed for a hard life. She shows little respect for herself or her classmates. I hope she thinks long & hard about the direction her life is taking because it appears to be going downhill, full steam ahead.

  100. I’ve seen ‘a few’ movies with girls dressed like that in a school. As I recall they usually involved the remaining cloth falling off at some point and naughty things happening all in exchange for a passing grade. That’s how ‘I’ want to be remembered….

  101. Just when I thought I’d seen everything, I realized I’d *ALMOST* seen everything.

    This girl needs to move her and her Mom to New Jersey, and work on their accent and become reality TV stars. (Jersey Nick:”Sneaky”)


  102. I’ve been following this tale with some interest, and I’m noticing a disturbing trend in the comments. There’s always the assumption that because she wanted to appear in a very mildly provocative pose, she must be heading for a career in porn.

    Seriously? Isn’t that just an extension of “dressed the way she was, she was asking for it”? She chose a picture that, to her, best represented her personality. It’s not the picture I would have chosen, but it certainly wasn’t even remotely raunchy. Making the leap from that to “dressed like that … involved the remaining cloth falling off at some point and naughty things happening” is just absurd and, frankly, significantly more objectionable than either of the photos.

    Isn’t one of the points of working towards a more equal society that people should be allowed to dress as they wish without us making assumptions about their preferences in terms of sexuality? Yes, she dresses in a short skirt. That doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with anyone. It doesn’t mean she’s available. It doesn’t mean she wants a career in porn. (And, for that matter, I’d like to point out that as long as it’s by choice, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a career in porn. It’s barely different from any other job, and no different at all from those actors who’ve appeared in films with unsimulated sex — more laudable, in my view, since those mainstream films tend to be singularly depressing…)

    The alcohol and poor parenting is a totally separate matter; I have strong views on drinking, and would be delighted to see it eradicated. But it’s a different matter.

    “It is not okay to bring up a child whose personal ambition seems to be to become a porn star. .. But I would not be surprised to hear of “Sydney Spyce” in the news again.”

    “Alas, neither would I. -rc”

    Seriously, Randy? *You’re* going to come down on the “her midriff’s uncovered so she must be heading for porn” bandwagon too? There’s absolutely nothing to support that in the story, and even if there was I don’t see why it should be something to condemn.

    You’ve jumped to quite a conclusion there, Andrew. My reply is quite obviously to the last sentence that proceeded it. I stand by that: indeed I would not be surprised to see her in the news again. But your main point is a good one. -rc

  103. I have been reading all of the posts regarding this GIRL. It is a shame that her 15 minutes of fame is based on her poor choices. If she only knew that she could be noted for her altruistic adventures, her high intellect, her ability in gymnastics, etc. Instead, she is lumped in with her mother, who has some shortcomings to say the least. I hope that she can separate herself from the future she is heading towards, (attention due to poor wardrobe & provocative displays of self) and I hope that she gains a healthy self-image and goal.
    Other than that, she really doesn’t warrant all of the attention she is being given, probably what her mommy wanted in the first place.

  104. Andrew: The way a person dresses and carries himself or herself is communication. It definitely sends a message. Whether Ms. Spies intends to send that particular message or not does not alter the fact that she is sending it. I agree that you cannot truly determine a person’s intents or future based on such flimsy evidence, but the people who are interpreting her known actions are accurate in their assessment. She is sending a very trashy and sexual message. She is free to alter that message if it does not fit. If it does fit, then we will know eventually, won’t we? I notice that you are in the UK. This girl is in the US. We have our own culture and our own signals. Since she grew up here, she knows what people will think of her dress and pose. Your idea that this is not a particularly provocative pose simply does not apply in this situation because you are interpreting it according to the rules of your own culture.

  105. When I was in school Seniors had portraits taken by a professional photographer, all other grades used head shots taken by the photographer that took the school pictures each year. The boys had to provide their own coat and tie and dress shirt for the photos, I don’t remember about the girls.

    As I recall there were sections of the yearbook that were devoted to ‘candid shots’ of people (students and faculty alike) and a section like this in each grade. I also seem to recall that in some years students were asked or encouraged to submit a picture of themselves as a baby or a young child for a special page (sort of a game of “Guess Who These People Are”). Beyond that we were not allowed to submit photos for inclusion in the yearbook.

    I had a special situation. The Senior Portraits were taken in August BEFORE the School Year even started. Between August and January I lost about 40 pounds (I was trying to lose weight) so that by January my Senior Portrait did not really reflect who I felt I was any longer so I requested to have my portrait re-done. It was allowed, at MY expense and had to follow the same guidelines as the original portrait. I had to go through at least 2 people to get the permission because, at the time, this sort of thing simply was not done. Also because of time constraints there was no time for the picture to be ‘touched up’ (removing any blemishes) so my picture did not look as ‘perfect’ as the rest of my class but at least it more closely reflected who I had become. Also it was a Private School so may have been more restrictive in its policies than a Public School would have been.

    All of that to say that, outside of the exceptions I mentioned above, I have never heard of schools allowing students to submit their own pictures and fully support the decision of the editors to not publish the submitted photo as a portrait.


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