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)
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.”
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.
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:
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:
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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