Morgyn Arnold was left out of her cheerleading team’s yearbook photo and her sister, Jordyn Poll, believes it is because her sister has Down syndrome. Poll took to Facebook to demand change, and administrators at Shoreline Junior High are finally listening.
Morgyn Arnold, who has Down syndrome, worked as the cheerleading team’s manager throughout her eighth-grade year. When the year ended and the middle schoolers received their yearbooks, Arnold was disappointed that the photo she’d taken with the team had been omitted, and a version without her replaced it.
The Utah student was devastated, feeling left out by a team that she had been so proudly a part of. According to her sister, her fellow cheerleaders made her feel at home on the team and were her friends. The choice to leave Arnold out of the photo, likely because of her disability, shocked the family.
“Those girls were so kind to her during the year,” Poll admitted. “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.” According to Arnold’s accounts, there were two photos taken at the end of the school year. One photo depicted the entire team with Morgyn Arnold in the center, smiling brightly. The second photo was the same, save for one small detail: Arnold was left out of the frame.
The second photo was the one chosen for Shoreline Junior High School’s 2020-21 yearbook, which was given to students on the final day of classes, just before being released for summer. When Arnold got home and opened it up, she was devastated.
In an outraged Facebook post, Jordyn Poll gave a lecture that she hopes helps change the system. “The first picture you see is a cute junior high cheer team,” Poll wrote in the post. “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.”
Poll continued her post, saying that “I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team. I hope that no one ever has to explain why people deliberately choose to be exclusive”
Morgyn Arnold’s 25-year-old sister explained that this wasn’t the first time her sister had been excluded while attending Shoreline Junior High School. “Two years ago they didn’t even include her in the class list,” Poll admidded. “We contacted the school administration this year, and the answer we got was as ignorant as the photo.”
The family believes that Arnold has been repeated excluded because of her Down syndrome and that her differences have brought out the intolerance of the school district. “There were two photos,” Poll wrote on Facebook, “one with Morgyn and one without. A choice was made on which photo to submit, a choice made MULTIPLE times, and a choice that excluded Morgyn EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.”
The Facebook post has since been made private after commenters made death threats to the cheerleaders in the photograph. Poll said that “it’s not OK to point fingers and to tell these girls that they need to be crucified.” Instead, she wanted to “raise awareness that this happened and choices are made all the time to be exclusive.”
She continued, saying that “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.” Since Poll has brought the issue to the school’s administration and Davis School District officials, apologies have been made, along with promises of change.
In a statement to KSL-TV, the officials from the school district said that “apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to others impacted by this error. 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.”
This is one step toward Poll’s expectation for the district to “be better.” Her sister, Morgyn Arnold has chosen to be happy, rather than be consumed by hurt or hate. “Morgyn could have chosen to be angry or upset, but instead she chose to be understanding, and forgiving,” Poll said of her sister, who Poll says is “very intelligent.”
“I think the important thing here is that we focus more on loving one another and being more inclusive,” Poll said, hoping to make a wider difference beyond her sister’s school. “We can all learn from Morgyn in how she handled this with such a positive attitude. … We cannot continue to shame one another when mistakes are made. There is no place for shame in all of this.”