DHS administrators say senior’s yearbook photo violates dress code

Durango High School senior Sydney Spies, center, and her mother, Miki Spies, protest the elimination of Sydney Spies senior portrait from the school’s yearbook. At left is 2011 DHS graduate Alayna Woomer. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Durango High School senior Sydney Spies, center, and her mother, Miki Spies, protest the elimination of Sydney Spies senior portrait from the school’s yearbook. At left is 2011 DHS graduate Alayna Woomer.

A group of teens, joined by one mother, waved neon signs in front of Durango High School on Wednesday afternoon to protest the elimination of one of the girl’s senior photos from the yearbook.

Sydney Spies organized the protest after administrators told her the senior portrait she submitted would not be printed in the yearbook because her attire in the photo violated dress code, Spies said.

The high school requires that tops “fully cover the chest, back, abdomen and sides of the student.”

A photo Spies submitted for the yearbook shows her wearing a short yellow skirt with a black shawl that exposes her shoulders and midsection.

“It’s a little different from everyone else’s picture,” she said.

But she said it was the one that best represented her personality.

“I feel like they aren’t allowing me to have my freedom of expression,” said Spies, 18. “I think the administration is wrong in this situation, and I don’t want this to happen to other people.”

Spies argued that until the school creates a formal policy about yearbook photos, it can’t tell her not to use her picture.

DHS Principal Diane Lashinsky and assistant principal LeAnne Garcia declined requests for comment about the issue. Spies said she has arranged a meeting with Lashinsky on Friday morning to discuss the photo.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said Spies’ allegations against the school’s administration may be valid.

According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 22-1-120, “students of the public schools shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press” and that “no expression contained in a student publication, whether or not such publication is school-sponsored, shall be subject to prior restraint.”

Goldstein said, “Hopefully, it would come as no surprise that dress codes don’t trump state law.”

However, school administration can overrule the law under certain requirements, including obscenity.

Obscenity is defined as material that is offensive to the community and appeals to “morbid or shameful” interests, without social, literary or artistic value, Goldstein said.

Miki Spies, Sydney’s mother, joined her in the protest outside the high school.

“The yearbook adviser is saying she can’t use the picture; so the students are left with no voice in it,” Miki Spies said. “The law clearly states that it is the student’s right to decide.”

The mother and daughter are making arrangements with a civil lawyer in Denver to review the case, Miki Spies said.

The deadline to finalize photo submissions for the yearbook is Friday.

Staff writer Emery Cowan contributed to this report.

Miki Spies, mother of Durango High School senior Sydney Spies, provided this photo of Sydney taken by Thru the Lens Photography. DHS administrators rejected Sydney’s photo for publication in the school’s yearbook. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Miki Spies

Miki Spies, mother of Durango High School senior Sydney Spies, provided this photo of Sydney taken by Thru the Lens Photography. DHS administrators rejected Sydney’s photo for publication in the school’s yearbook.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story