FLEMING ISLAND – When a decision was made earlier during the school year to remove a page from the Fleming Island High yearbook featuring the LGBTQ community at the school, editor Hannah …
FLEMING ISLAND – When a decision was made earlier during the school year to remove a page from the Fleming Island High yearbook featuring the LGBTQ community at the school, editor Hannah Coulter knew something had to be done.
So she began a change.org petition, which led to an agreement to feature a diversity spread in this year’s book.
“On Wednesday the 14th [of April], I was called into a meeting with some school administrators, along with my teacher advisor, where I was told the page wouldn’t be in our yearbook; in fact, there wasn’t anything I could do, it was already too late due to printing,” said Coulter. “This angered me for mainly two reasons – Inez Nieves, the original producer of the culture page, wouldn’t have her cultural inclusion in our book, and my pride page wouldn’t be showcasing our wonderful LGBTQ students. I was told it was because we had a GSA club, so we wouldn’t be needing a Pride page.”
To Coulter, the reasoning made little sense because other clubs and groups at the school, such as JROTC, Bands and Advanced Placement, maintained a full spread in the yearbook.
Nieves, FIHS alumnus who currently attends college in Oregon, began a multicultural page of the yearbook during her time at the school.
“I introduced a multicultural page my sophomore year of high school because I wanted people like me to feel represented in the yearbook they paid good money for,” she said.
Coulter, who identifies as bisexual, said it’s important for the LGBTQ community to be represented.
“Whoever’s decision it was, even if it was unintentional, felt homophobic. Stuff like this usually doesn’t bother me. Even though I’m a relatively bland-appearing bisexual, I still get called slurs often,” Coulter said. “It’s water off my back. When it’s something that affects my fellow students, though? I’m like a moth on a flame. I’ve been in yearbook for four years. I know this may sound dramatic to some, but I consider myself a servant to the students. My ‘job’ in yearbook, regardless of whether or not I’m editor, is to serve them.”
After meetings with school administrators and the chief academic officer on April 15 and 16, a compromise was reached, with the pages returning via an add-on that will come with the yearbook.
A Clay County District Schools spokesperson gave the following statement: “The district has been notified of a situation regarding the yearbook at Fleming Island High School. The district is currently in the process of investigating this situation. Clay County District Schools values the diversity of all students and remains dedicated to positively promoting and supporting the students of Clay County.”
It is still unclear who made the original decision to remove the pages.