School excludes cheerleader with Down syndrome from yearbook

A Utah cheerleader with Down syndrome was excluded from her team’s yearbook photo — an omission that relatives believe may have been because of her disability, according to reports.

Morgyn Arnold, the team’s 14-year-old manager, was “devastated” when she was left out of the cheer squad photo in Shoreline Junior High School’s 2020-21 yearbook, KSTU reported.

“Those girls were so kind to her during the year,” Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, told the station. “Those girls on the squad were her friends … they are her friends … for her to not be included when all was said and done was devastating.”

Poll posted two official portraits the team took for its yearbook on her Facebook page early Tuesday. Her lengthy accompanying account was later changed to private, but a Post reporter spotted it prior to the update.

“The first picture you see is a cute junior high cheer team,” Poll wrote. “The second, although similar, includes all members of the team. It’s the SAME cheer team — SAME girls, SAME photo shoot, SAME poses, but one included all team members and one did not.”

It’s unclear how the decision was made to exclude Morgyn, but Poll told KSTU her family wants to follow the teen’s example of forgiveness to ensure that such an exclusion doesn’t happen again.

This photo without Morgyn Arnold made it into the school's yearbook.
This photo without Morgyn Arnold made it into the school’s yearbook.

“My message is that kindness wins,” Poll said. “We have to be better than this, and we are capable of being better than this.”

Poll told the Salt Lake City Tribune she believes the omission was due to her younger sister’s disability.

“Morgyn is very intelligent,” Poll told the newspaper. “She knew what happened. She was sad, and she was hurt.”

Reached for comment Thursday, Poll told The Post she was unsure why Morgyn was left out.

“That’s the answer I’m hoping to find,” Poll, 25, said during a phone interview.

Morgyn, who is in eighth grade, got the yearbook two weeks ago on the last day of school, Poll said. She said she “stands by” her detailed Facebook post, but thinks it’s “inappropriate to point fingers” at anyone at Shoreline.

“I think there was a lot of miscommunication and a lot of things that happened very poorly,” Poll said, adding that talks are now underway with school officials on how to rectify the matter, including a possible reprint of the yearbook.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Poll said. “We’re moving in the right direction with the school to make the change that needs to be made going forward.”

Poll’s Facebook post accused the school of “deliberately” choosing to exclude Morgyn, adding that it marked the second time in three years her sister was left out of the yearbook.

“Two years ago they didn’t even include her in the class list,” the post read. “We contacted the school administration this year, and the answer we got was as ignorant as the photo.”

Morgyn's sister, Jordyn Poll, said that her sister "was hurt" by her exclusion from the yearbook.
Morgyn’s sister, Jordyn Poll, said her sister “was hurt” by her exclusion from the yearbook.

Poll said she expected “better” from the school administrator who told her there was “nothing they could do,” according to her post.

“You can be better and I expect you to be better,” the post continued.

The school, meanwhile, has issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened” over the omission, KSTU reported.

“Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” Shoreline Junior High School officials said. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”

Davis School District officials, meanwhile, told KSL-TV they were “deeply saddened” by the omission characterized as a mistake.

“Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to others impacted by this error,” the statement read. “We will continue to address it with the parents of the student. We also will continue to look at our processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

Poll said she marked her post private after some of the cheerleaders depicted in the photo received death threats.

“It’s not OK to point fingers and to tell these girls that they need to be crucified,” Poll told The Post, adding she made the privacy change to protect the cheerleaders.

“I want to raise awareness that this happened and choices are made all the time to be exclusive,” Poll continued. “I don’t think anybody was malicious or hateful, but the choice was still made and should’ve never been done in the first place.”

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