Photoshop Fail: Student Replaced by Brown Smiley Face in Class Photo

April 4, 2012  |  

I think I’m more offended by the stupidity of this move than by any type of underlying racial insensitivity some think it implies.

Somehow, when the parents of a second grade student at Sawgrass Elementary School in Florida failed to sign a consent form for their son’s picture to appear in a class photo, a cartoon image of a brown boy Photoshopped on his real body was the best thing a photographer could come up with. Now, not only are the child’s parents upset, so is the school’s principal.

It seems David Claussen and his wife, who own Broward County Pictures and have been in the school picture-taking business for 37 years, are to blame—although David says the last thing he wanted to do was offend anyone.

According to him, a liaison with the Parent Teacher’s Association that helped organize the photo shoot notified them that two of the students pictured needed to be removed because their parents did not sign a consent form. David was able to use Photoshop to lift one of the kids out, but explained that there was a problem with the second student because he was right in the middle of the front row.

David said he offered to come back to the school to reshoot the image, but instead there was a discussion about putting a star over the boy’s face, but then the PTA came up with the brilliant idea to to use a smiley face. David, who said he’s never received a request like that before, even had notes from the discussion on what he was to do.

The school’s own principal reportedly didn’t even see the picture until she got a copy along with all the other parents who ordered prints on Friday afternoon. Her assistant told the Local 10 news she was outraged and ordered a new picture be taken this week.

The news station also tried to get in touch with the boy’s parents but were unsuccessful; and another parent at the school said he was no longer a student at Sawgrass, although privacy regulations prohibit the school from revealing that information.

A spokesman for the school calls the entire incident an oversight, as the boy shouldn’t have sat for a photo if he hadn’t turned in a consent form. And another parent sent in a written statement to Local 10, defending the school:

“This is a great school and should not be tarnished by negative publicity that is being misinterpreted for anything more than it is…an oversight that has been corrected. This class teacher is an excellent teacher, the administration is very responsive.”

At the very least, the PTA leader who signed off on this needs to go. This is just foolish. What do you think about this incident?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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