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Utah teen with Down syndrome devastated to be left out of cheer team photo

Shoreline Junior High School has apologized and called the photo choice "a mistake."

A Utah woman is speaking out after her sister was left out of her middle school cheerleading team's yearbook photos.

Eighth-grader Morgyn Arnold, who has Down syndrome, came home from the last day of school feeling deflated and full of questions about why she wasn't in the photo of the Shoreline Junior High school's cheerleading team, older sister Jordyn Poll said.

Morgyn, 14, was officially the team manager, but attended practices, learned routines and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game, her sister said.

The Shoreline Junior High cheerleading team sat for two photos for the yearbook: One included Morgyn, in the middle in a purple tee and a big grin; she was not in the other.

Image: Morgyn Arnold, The photo that was used in Shoreline Junior High School's 2020-2021 yearbook excluded member Morgyn Arnold.
Morgyn Arnold, seated center, poses with other members of the Shoreline Junior High School cheerleading team.Shoreline Junior High / via Jordyn Poll

Morgyn was devastated when she learned that the yearbook included the photo that she wasn't in and that that version had been used in several other school and promotional materials, her sister said.

"Everyone knows how it feels to be excluded," Jordyn Poll said. "It's never a good feeling, so of course Morgyn was bummed."

"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," Jordyn Poll, 25, wrote on Facebook. "There were two photos: 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."

Image: Morgyn Arnold, Shoreline Jr High school cheerleading team are alleged to have removed a Down's Syndrome student from the yearbook version of a team photo.
The photo used in the Shoreline Junior High School yearbook did not include Morgyn Arnold.Shoreline Junior High / via Jordyn Poll

Shoreline Junior High School called the photo selection a mistake.

"We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made," the school said in a statement on Facebook. "We are continuing to look at what has occurred and why it occurred. 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 will continue to look at our processes to ensure this does not happen again."

Jordyn Poll says her family does not think the decision to leave Morgyn out was intended to be malicious or discriminatory and they have nothing but love toward her teammates and their families.

"Morgyn could have chosen to be angry or upset, but instead she chose to be understanding, and forgiving," Poll said. "Those girls on the team are her friends, and they've been incredibly supportive through all of this."

Morgyn and her family will meet with school administrators to discuss the situation and how to advocate for students with disabilities, Poll said.

"I think the important thing here is that we focus more on loving one another and being more inclusive," she said. "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."