A Hanlon’s Razor Conundrum: The Case Of The Missing Cheerleader

cheerleader left out

This one made me want to cry.

Fourteen-year-old Morgyn Arnold grew up in Layton, Utah cheering for her six older siblings at sporting events, and worked hard to become an official cheerleader, like her father and sister before her.

Morgyn has Down syndrome, so being on the Shoreline Junior High School cheerleading squad as the team manager means more to her than being part of a cheer team does to most cheerleaders, giving her pride and a sense of achievement while providing the opportunity to make new friends. She also learned all of the dance moves so she could cheer in front of the home team crowd.

It is understandable, then, that she was, according to her family, heartbroken when the school’s yearbook came out a few weeks ago and Morgyn was not in the team picture or listed as part of the squad. What isn’t understandable is how this could happen. The school apologized and claimed it was a “mistake.” Morgyn’s sister Jordan Poole believes the cruel snub was intentional.

So do I.

Two pictures were taken, one including Morgyn, on the left, and the other excluding her. Why would there be two pictures, unless someone thought that they might choose to use the photo with only the conventionally pretty girls in it? Team mate Maddie Campbell, 15, said she did not remember whether the photographer or the team’s adviser asked Morgyn to sit out of some of the team’s photos, and does not recall hearing any explanation for the action. She says she thought it was a weird request at the time.

Well, now she knows why they did it. Sure enough, the photo without Morgyn was used in yearbooks and school social media accounts.

Hence the Hanlon’s Razor controversy. Hanlon’s Razor states that one should never assume malice when stupidity can explain conduct. But who is that stupid? And who could be that malicious?

Davis School District community relations supervisor Shauna Lund told The New York Times that the incident was “under investigation” and the school planned to work with the family to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Oh, I think it’s fair to say that they won’t leave out Morgyn’s photo again. THAT would really be stupid.

Then Lund mouthed the mandatory wokisms. “We also want to apologize to those who were impacted outside of that family who feel that something was done to not be inclusive. We want the student to feel like she is included in the community. We want to apologize for that mistake,” said Lund. The family doesn’t “feel” something was done: their daughter was excluded from the yearbook, which is not “inclusive” by definition.

Morgyn’s father, Jeff Arnold, is almost as bad as Lund. He said that instead of placing the blame on the school, he wanted to use the situation to raise awareness of the importance of “thoughtful inclusion and compassion.” “If we can find ways so that doesn’t happen to anyone else, that’s just what we want,” Mr Arnold said. “That’s all that matters, because we can’t go back and put it in the yearbook.”

No, but you can sue the school for negligent infliction of emotional distress. You know how to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else? Make it hurt. Don’t let these administrators get off with cheap pieties. Make it hurt enough that the little monsters who conspired to shun the Down Symdrome girl are made to regret their cruelty, and that the sleepy faculty advisor who let this happen under his or her watch is soon searching the online want ads

Poll says her sister has already forgiven everyone involved. Of course she has. Down Syndrome kids are usually instinctively kind and generous. One of their differences is that they seem to be imbued with a natural sweetness, and intrinsic ethical instincts. So, naturally, her school mates decided to rip her heart out.

Shoreline Junior High is fortunate that I am not Morgyn’s father, and if my wife Grace were her mother, the staff would have to hide out in Monument Valley. Trust me.

Post Script: Our professional journalists at work: In four sources, I found Morgyn’s name spelled Morgyn, Morgan, and Morgin, with multiple spellings appearing in the one article.

14 thoughts on “A Hanlon’s Razor Conundrum: The Case Of The Missing Cheerleader

  1. “Davis School District community relations supervisor Shauna Lund told The New York Times that the incident was “under investigation” and the school planned to work with the family to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.””

    How much investigation does that really need, Shauna? Fire the people responsible. Immediately. There’s nothing that could possibly mitigate this. What’s the theory? That she was accidently airbrushed out of the picture, and the rest of the squad was sandwiched in as a formatting glitch? That’s like someone saying they tripped on a banana peel and fell dick-first into a hooker. No.

    • I hope I remember that analogy if ever an appropriate situation arises. But, yeah, the all-too-common stall of an ‘investigation’.

    • “What’s the theory? That she was accidently airbrushed out of the picture, and the rest of the squad was sandwiched in as a formatting glitch?”

      The post states that two pictures were taken, one with and one without Morgyn. So, I don’t think she was airbrushed out; they just (intentionally) used the picture without her. That doesn’t make it any better but I just wanted to point that out.

      • Indeed, the only “investigation” needed is to find out who on the school faculty was present when the photos were taken, and fire them. There is no justification for taking the photo without Morgyn in the first place.

  2. I worked on the yearbook when I was a senior in high school. No mistake. A brazen cruelty by some sociopath, student or advisor. Sue them. Make them pay. Put the school district out of business. This is beyond forgiving.

    In today’s environment, when even the hint of race or ethnicity is ipso facto racism, how in the world can we possibly find this kind of cruelty toward total innocents? I was in despair the last time I wrote here. Now I feel like killing myself.

  3. Morgyn’s father sounds compassionate and wants to follow Morgyn’s example of forgiveness. This, I guess, would make him a lousy lawyer.
    While ‘Sue the bastards’ might be effective in preventing a recurrence of this kind of stupidity, it likely would have an adverse impact on Morgyn as she saw people she likes being hurt in proceedings she does not fully understand?
    Better, in my opinion, for the perp(s) to apologize in person to Morgyn, her family, the school, and the public, and, in some way, make it up to her as best they can.
    There is no good way for someone to explain why he has done something that in hindsight obviously is very stupid, but the guilty parties in this case must try. Putting them on the defensive in a lawsuit might work against that.

    • Apologies are cheap, and as I said, I cannot believe that this was an accident. Morgyn needs survival skills, and a crucial one is that “Thank-you, sir, may I have another?” wins neither respect nor compassion.

      • No, it had to be intentional. The essential question for the principal has to be, “WTF were you thinking?”
        There is a wide range of cognitive ability among down syndrome kids; we can only guess where Morgyn is in that range, which is why I would go with her father’s judgment.

  4. If those are the full photos as taken or as prepped for the yearbook, there are multiple bits of incompetence evident. In the first, the girl in the bottom left is partially out of the pic. In the second, the girl on the right end of the middle row is missing, as well as Morgyn.

    Of course, the question remains as to why a picture was taken at all without Morgyn. The only thing I can imagine is that perhaps they typically take one with just the cheerleaders, and another including managers & etc. and copies are available for sale separate from the yearbook, although that seems unlikely. Maybe I just find it difficult to believe such intentional cruelty.

    Haven’t errors been corrected in other yearbooks with paste-in pages or photos being provided after the printing?

    • When I was in high school, I almost got in trouble for such an ‘accident’. The yearbook was supposed to have a picture of the National Merit Finalists and Semi-finalists. Well, everyone was lined up and then…some of the semi-finalists began complaining that ‘This isn’t my good side, I need to be moved to the other side’ and other such things. As this didn’t involve the finalists, we were moved aside. About 20 minutes later, when they finally got everything settled, we heard ‘Smile!…got it’. After a few pictures, the cameraman disassembled his tripod and left. So, the picture only had the semi-finalists, but they were the ‘important’ people after all.

      Fast-forward a month. The vice-principal came to a class that all the National Merit Finalists were taking. He began to chew us out for missing the picture. The teacher informed him that we left for the pictures. He threatened to exclude us from graduation. The Semi-finalists assured him we were there. How could this POSSIBLY have happened? It was just a big mystery.

      Due to a series of ‘accidents’, I appear in no high school yearbooks at all. Every single activity, every single picture failed to show me or was excluded for one reason or another. Yearbook ‘accidents’ are pretty common. People getting in trouble for this are very UNcommon. I believe the people responsible for this show up later in journalism and politics. Epstein’s guards weren’t guards, they fell asleep, all the cameras failed except the one they forgot about and they ‘accidentally’ deleted that record when trying to copy it for investigators before anyone actually viewed it. Yes, lots of ‘accident’ happen and the people in charge always feel that you can’t punish people for ‘accidents’.

      When it comes to the important people in an organization (like the ones involved in this cheerleading incident), there are some rules ‘everyone’ agrees with.
      (1) It was either an accident or because of incompetence.
      (2) You can’t punish people for incompetence because…well…because.
      (3) It doesn’t matter how unlikely the scenario is or how likely an explanation of malice is, if it can be explained by incompetence or a series of accidents, it has to be treated like that is what happened.
      (4) It doesn’t matter how many times it has happened before.
      (5) If there is a push demanding that SOMEBODY be punished, it will always be the complete responsibility of the least important person. It doesn’t matter if this means explaining that the just-promoted intern was given unsupervised access to billions of dollars to spend as he saw fit and bankrupt the company. You have to accept that it was his fault alone and suggesting that people should be punished if they gave such a person such access is blaming the victim.
      (6) If you don’t accept the 5 rules above without question, you are a conspiracy theorist.

  5. The solution seems straightforward to me.

    Fire the heartless bastard or bastards responsible for this. Do not replace them. Use the savings to re-print (correctly) and re-circulate the yearbook.

  6. “Shoreline Junior High is fortunate that I am not Megyn’s father, and if my wife Grace were her mother, the staff would have to hide out in Monument Valley. Trust me.”

    Morgyn’s father, perhaps?

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