Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory President John F. Scudder Jr. and Principal Gary Cannon said in a joint statement on the school website that they had not communicated their yearbook portrait policy adequately to senior Jessica Urbina and her parents.
“We begin by formally apologizing to Jessica and her parents, Tony and Ana Urbina. We deeply regret the pain caused in the past few days,” the statement read. “The information below is meant to provide our entire community with an account of how we have come to this place, but that account is in no way meant to excuse our actions, or lack thereof, and the real, significant impact they had on the Urbina family.”
The school said it decided months ago to exclude Jessica’s portrait from the yearbook because she “did not conform to the dress code” when she elected to wear the tuxedo jacket and black bow-tie made available to boys instead of the black off-the-shoulder drape offered to girls.
Critics called the decision a “clear case of discrimination” and suggested it could have violated Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination at schools.
Students responded by wearing ties over their T-shirts and dresses on campus to protest the administration’s decision.
Earlier this week, the school said it agreed with its students who “showed solidarity” with Jessica, and acknowledged that its “current policy regarding senior portraits is not adequate to meet the needs of our families or our mission.”
Article continues below“While we cannot undo the impact of this decision, the lack of adequate communication, nor the impact of the last few days, we can move forward in a manner that we believe represents the best of our school community,” the school’s statement noted.
Sacred Heart said it is changing its policy on senior portraits, and would ensure that Jessica’s senior portrait photo would appear in all places and events where other senior portraits appeared.
Jessica’s family requested that the yearbook not be reprinted for her sake because they don’t want the other students to have to wait to receive their copies.
Sacred Heart added that Jessica’s “choice of clothing for graduation and end of the year ceremonies would be supported.”