Yearbook Ethics Quiz: The Proud Teen Mom’s Rejection


Last year’s high school controversial high school yearbook-related Ethics Quiz in involved a comely female student who wanted to advertise sex;* this year’s edition is about the potential results of effective advertising.

Wheatmore High School in North Carolina told its graduating seniors that they should have their yearbook photos should include some object that would have personal significance. It was very kind of them to guarantee at least one Ethics Alarms-worthy donnybrook with this brain-dead idea: just imagine all the props students could have brought along to prime lawsuits and Fox News stories. A diabetic student might have posed with a syringe, for example. Or an empty martini glass.  The “V is For Vendetta” mask. A Romney-Ryan button. A John Edwards for President button! A winning poker hand. A blow-up doll. A Samurai sword, or more edgy yet, a pressure cooker. Or, of course, a hunting rifle. I’m amazed that only graduating senior Caitlin Tiller thought of a prop that was guaranteed to set school administrators’ teeth grinding, but she certainly chose a dandy one: her baby.

The school rejected the resulting photo of the happy 17-year-old, unmarried mother holding her year old child, Leelin, as celebrating teen pregnancy and motherhood. It also cannily waited long enough to inform Caitlin that the yearbook was days from publication by the time she found out. Caitlin and her mother vociferously protested ( “They should be proud students are willing to stay in school graduate and make something of themselves and not try and hide it” —-Tiller’s mother, Karen Morgan), but to no avail.

Your 2013 Ethics Alarms Yearbook Ethics Quiz:

Was it fair and responsible for the school to reject the photo of Caitlin and Leelin?

and a Bonus Question

Which of the items mentioned earlier ( 1. syringe, 2. empty martini glass.  3. “V is For Vendetta” mask.  4. Romney-Ryan button. 5. John Edwards for President button  6.A winning poker hand.  7. blow-up doll.  8. Samurai sword  9. pressure cooker. 10. hunting rifle ) would have warranted the school banning a student photo?

I’ll leave the Bonus question alone (extra credit for offering another possible prop-of-shame), but you will perhaps not be surprised to learn that I am with the school on this one. Society sends foolishly mixed messages about unwed and teen pregnancies already, and a student using her yearbook photo to proclaim her pride in single-motherhood would indeed appear to be teen pregnancy advocacy. See? She’s happy! She graduated! She has an adorable baby! You can have one of these adorable living dolls too!

“Don’t get pregnant before you’re legal, married and have a degree, but if you do have a baby, we’ll be glad to let you display it like it was your winning 4H project!” makes no sense, not that the whole “bring a prop” plan was much better.

* (You Sydney Spies fans can see her latest Facebook photo here.)


Sources: Daily News, Christian Post

Graphic: Daily News

16 thoughts on “Yearbook Ethics Quiz: The Proud Teen Mom’s Rejection

  1. Really has nothing to do with whether the school should endorse teen motherhood or deny that it exists.

    A school photo for time immemorial consists of the ONE person.. Not their mother, their friend or their dog… And a baby is no different.

    If the school had allowed it, there would be a torrent of theme photos to come. And no precedent to stop it.

    • Great lawyer instincts there! A baby is not an “item or object”…or, President Obama notwithstanding, a prop. This would have nicely ducked the issue. You need to be a school administrator, Jj. Obviously, you aren’t one…you have too much sense.

      By the way—did you see this?

      • But they did allow students to pose with pets. And while a dog or a cat is not a baby they are also not objects or props.

        The time to tell her she couldnt do it was when the photo was being taken not later.

  2. 11) A box of condoms. Held by whoever was in alpha order next to Caitlin.

    But what is ban worthy? It’s a good question. I live in deer hunting country. Kids are shooting their first deer by the time they are 10 or 11 years old. It’s a big part of the culture here and for many a family tradition. Why should one student be allowed to be pictured with a soccer ball, or a paint brush but not a hunting rifle?

    I think the whole props idea is just bad to begin with – if for no other reason than it makes for a really cheesy photo.

    • The props idea was trouble-bait, plain and simple. Whoever wrote the notice that went out when pictures were announced wasn’t thinking.

      • That was actually my first reaction: what were they thinking?!? And then I started to laugh because had that been my graduating class, half my classmates would have been sitting there holding a Sucrets box full of weed.

        • Same here, giving a blank check like this was sheer idiocy as a policy like that could have spread like wildfire and adult/parents could not keep up with the slang sneaks. Firm guidelines at the start, or better yet drop the idea and reshoot/delay photos a little to fix it.
          Another problem is that they shouldn’t have waited until three days. If the girl wanted a family photo, that’s a different shot. I admit I’m impressed that she’s managed to graduate on time but that graduation is what the yearbook is to celebrate not the obstacles.

  3. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think there’s anything about that picture, or any picture of a theoretical teen mom, that makes me think, “Man, I wish I had a kid in high school.”

    • Yes, I think Jack was being a bit facetious with his wording.

      The point is still apt: when certain undesirable consequences are no longer stigmatized, then there is less reason to avoid the behaviors leading to those consequences. When the consequences of the behaviors are actually shown in even the slightest positive or accepted light, then the behaviors themselves move away from stigmatization and towards encouragement.

    • You also aren’t a teenager anymore. Many of the teen mom’s get lavished with praise and attention. Depending on their family circumstances, they may also get their own apartment, spending money, etc. Have you noticed what happens when someone walks into the room with a baby? This photo was going to get a lot of attention of the “ahhh,…. she’s adorable! variety”.

      One of the problems is that the school doesn’t take yearbook photos, private photographers do. As soon as that photo came in, it should have been flagged in time for her to have a reshoot. Unfortunately, it was probably student editors who put the whole thing together and it was the last minute before a responsible adult saw the thing and thought “Oh, no”. Too late for a reshoot. Too bad. I don’t appear in my senior year yearbook at all due to a series of procedural mishaps of this sort . Oh well, it isn’t the end of the world. It definitely isn’t something to warrant a news story on.

  4. My vote is for none of the above: how about a dead cat or dog, signalling the future of the graduate as a serial killer?

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