Wyo high school student petitions to include senior portrait with gay pride flag

by Dustin Bleizeffer
January 28, 2013
(NOTE: School officials reversed their decision on Tuesday, January 29. For an update, click here.)

A Worland High School senior is petitioning Washakie County School District No. 1 to allow the inclusion of his senior portrait, which features the gay pride flag, alongside his fellow classmates’ photos in the school’s yearbook.

Worland High School senior Matt Jolley. School officials say the inclusion of the gay pride flag may be too political for inclusion in the school’s yearbook unless Jolley buys an ad for its placement. (Courtesy Matt Jolley — click to view)
Worland High School senior Matt Jolley. School officials say the inclusion of the gay pride flag may be too political for inclusion in the school’s yearbook unless Jolley buys an ad for its placement. (Courtesy Matt Jolley — click to view)

Matt Jolley, 18, is openly gay. He recently told WyoFile that when it came time to select a shot from his senior portrait photo shoot, his family and friends encouraged him to go with one in which he’s holding a small Rainbow flag. Last week he learned that the high school’s administration has tentatively decided not allow the inclusion of the photo, reportedly because the Rainbow flag might be considered overly political.

As a compromise, Jolley said the school will allow him to include his portrait by purchasing a $50 ad space in a portion of the yearbook reserved for ads. But Jolley said that’s not the same as having his portrait included right alongside his classmates’ photos.

“I really don’t think it’s political,” Jolley said of the inclusion of the Rainbow flag in his portrait. “It’s not like a Nazi flag or the KKK. It’s a universal thing… It’s not a political statement for me.”

Worland High School principal Randy Durr told WyoFile that no final decision has been made in the matter. He said the question about whether to include the photo in the yearbook does not center on a question of gay rights, but whether the inclusion of the gay pride flag is overly controversial — something that the school tries to avoid no matter the subject. Durr said he’s impressed with Jolley as a student and impressed with the way he is handling the matter; taking it through the school district’s established appeals process. The question first arose with the yearbook advisor, who took it to principal Durr, and now the case is being sent to the school district superintendent.

“We are trying to determine whether it’s a political statement or not,” Durr told WyoFile.

Jolley launched a petition campaign on Change.org, an online petition platform, to try to persuade school officials to change their stance on the matter. Jolley said he was scheduled to meet with Worland High School officials today (Monday, January 28) to further discuss the matter.

Jolley said he came out on Facebook late last summer, even though he’d believed that most people already knew he was gay. “I was surprised most people didn’t know.” Jolley said he loves photography and plans to attend The Art Institute of Colorado beginning this summer.

— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. You can reach him at dustin@wyofile.com, (307) 577-6069. Follow Dustin on Twitter, @DBleizeffer

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Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. When I was in school, people published photos that captured “their spirit,” if you will. My brother posed with an electric guitar, that he never truly learned to play. Many girls, on the swim team (and one who was not) had their swimsuits on. Some had photos with a clarinet or maybe their football jersey/cheerleader outfit. It is a descriptor of “their” time in HS. How is this different?