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Family hopes for change after student with Down syndrome is excluded from yearbook cheer photo

thumbnail_Jordyn Poll.jpg
Posted at 9:24 AM, Jun 18, 2021

LAYTON, Utah — LAYTON, Utah — The family of a Utah teen with Down syndrome is hoping for answers and action after learning she was not included in the photo of her cheerleading team in the school's yearbook.

Jordyn Poll said her sister, 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, discovered that she wasn't in the cheer squad photo in Shoreline Junior High School's 2020-21 yearbook.

"She was devastated," Poll said. "Those girls were so kind to her during the year. 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."

But Poll clarified that her sister's fellow cheerleaders are not to blame at all.

"They, throughout the entire year, did such a great job of including her and helping her and making her feel loved," she said. "These girls were nothing but kind. These girls were nothing but inclusive."

Poll posted the two photos on Facebook — one including Morgyn, the other without her. The image without Morgyn is the one that was included in the yearbook.

Poll's post has received thousands of shares, reactions and comments, many from people who also have family members with Down syndrome.

"Morgyn is my very best friend, and my heart was broken for her to experience this kind of exclusion," Poll said. "I felt like at some point it was on me to say something."

"We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made that omitted a student photo out of the yearbook," the school said in a statement. "Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error. We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice."

It's not clear who decided to take two different photos and who selected the picture that was printed. However, Poll said she and her family don't want to point fingers or accuse anyone of being malicious.

"My family is choosing to follow Morgyn's example of forgiving...of loving those girls still and just learning from this experience so that we can be better," she said. "That we can move forward, and we can learn to be a better advocate — not only for Morgyn, but for those other students at that school and in our communities."

Poll also updated her original Facebook post to remind everyone that the girls are not at fault.

"To the parents and the girls on the team - from the bottom of my heart, you are amazing and we love you. We are grateful for you & grateful for the way you've respected our sweet Morgyn," she wrote.

Poll said she's thankful for the support shown by so many people and the awareness that was raised. She's glad it caught the school's attention, and she hopes it leads to answers and change.

"I am so excited to make a change. I'm so excited to watch [school administration] act. They made a statement, and I'm hopeful and optimistic that their statement is going to be followed by action," she said, adding that she also hopes it will "lead to better inclusion and better advocacy — not just for my sweet Morgyn, but for all students."

"My message is that kindness wins. We have to be better than this, and we are capable of being better than this," she said. "It takes one person to make a difference, and when we rally together, we sure made a difference, and I'm excited to see the change that's going to come."

This story was originally published by Spencer Burt on Scripps station KSTU in Salt Lake City.