Remember picture day in grammar school? I do very well! My mom would let me wear my hair in a styled normally reserved for special occasions and I wore a freshly cleaned uniform. I recall being very careful with myself to make sure I still looked portrait ready. The pictures were usually taken before lunch or recess so most of us would still have the look our parents wanted for the portrait. I still have all of my class pictures from my grammar school and every so often do take a walk down memory lane.
I was surprised to learn from news clip shared by a friend that picture day was no longer universal. Students in some of Jacksonville’s neighborhoods have not participated in the picture day tradition in several years. One parent reached out to the local news station to voice concerns about her son’s school not having a picture day. The local news outlet investigated and found her son’s school was not alone. More than 20 schools did not offer a picture day, with the highest concentration of schools being in impoverished areas. The school district said they experienced difficulty in getting vendors to come photograph in certain Duval County schools. The report prompted some local photographers and other community members to step up giving some schools the opportunity to have their students photographed.
After viewing the clips, I wondered how many other school districts around the country have portrait bias? Camden? Chicago? Detroit? The rationale given by Duval County officials of this zip code driven policy is troubling. What should have been routine for every child somehow was allowed to become a disparity within the school system. Having a low income or living in community that Jacksonville labels the urban core should not been a barrier to public school students getting their milestones captured. The fact that this went on for many years is simply inconceivable.
As a result of one parent who called attention to the issue and a reporter who wanted to see better for her local community, next year, all Duval County Public Schools will have a picture day. If you are aware of any schools in your area where the kids did not take school portraits, reach out to your local news stations or school board officials.