A North Carolina high school’s decision to reject a yearbook photo featuring a teenage student holding her newborn baby boy is causing quite a ruckus.
Caitlin Tiller, 18, told ABC News, “The lady who runs the yearbook texted me and said, ‘We can’t use your picture in the yearbook because it promotes teen pregnancy’.” Wheatmore High School allows students to use props in their yearbook photos that show something that they are proud of.
Tiller’s son, Leelin, had just been born last summer when she took him to her yearbook photo appointment. “Everyone saw me with Leelin,” Tiller said. “No one said anything about me having my picture taken with him.” Tiller’s mother, Karen Morgan, told ABCnews.com, “There were no stipulations. They said, ‘Use whatever you want.’”
But just days before the yearbook went to press, Tiller received the text. The school also notified her that she had two days to submit a new photo without Leelin or not be in the yearbook. According to Tiller, “If he wasn’t going to be in it with me, I didn’t want be in it at all.”
Tiller says the school seems confused about what they will and won’t allow. She said her best friend was also not allowed to be pictured with her child in the yearbook. However, a photo of a pregnant student who posed with hands around her stomach was allowed.
Both Tiller and Morgan said they tried to speak to school officials, but were not successful. ”I tried to fight it, but no one was budging,” Tiller said. Morgan said one school board member even hung up on her. Tiller said the school fully supported her during her pregnancy. “They all helped me when I needed the help,” she said, “I don’t understand why they’re being like this.”
Superintendent of Randolph County Schools, Donald E. Andrews, said in a statement to ABCNews.com, “The practice at Wheatmore High School regarding yearbook pictures for seniors has been to include only graduating students in the senior section, and to permit family members and friends to be featured with our seniors in the ad section of the yearbook.” Andrews said they offered Tiller this option and regretted not making their policy clearer to her.
Tiller graduated from high school early in December and is now attending Randolph County Community College. Her mother said she thinks the school is trying to hide its teen moms rather than being proud of girls who stay in school and achieve their goals like her daughter.
“She finished high school early, started college this year, and is working 30-36 hours a week,” Morgan said. “It’s ridiculous. She has proven so much and been such an inspiration to teen moms.”
While it is too late for Tiller’s photo to be in the yearbook, she and Morgan hope that the attention her story has gotten will help other teen moms gain recognition for their hard work. ”Having a baby is not easy,” said Tiller, who is currently studying to be a medical assistant.