Jordyn Poll describes her 14-year-old sister, Morgyn Arnold, who has Down syndrome, as spunky, caring, and beautiful.
"Morgyn is the sweetest," Poll, 25, told TODAY Parents. "She is so kind and so forgiving and pure as they come."
So the family was shocked to learn that Morgyn, who is on the cheer squad at Shoreline Junior High School in Utah, had been excluded from the 2020-2021 yearbook.
"Think back to your school days — yearbook day was so fun and exciting," Poll told TODAY. "Morgyn was so excited to go to school and get her yearbook."
But the excitement didn't last long. Morgyn realized right away she had been cut from the photo.
"She came home from school and was showing us her yearbook," Poll explained. "She said 'There’s my team and there’s my friends and I’m not included.' She was devastated."
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Poll said the family was disappointed and wanted to know why Morgyn had been left out.
In a now-viral social media post, Poll posted side-by-side photos of the cheer squad alongside a lengthy caption detailing the family's pain.
"The first picture you see is a cute junior high cheer team. The second, although similar, includes all members of the team. It’s the SAME cheer team–SAME girls, SAME photo shoot, SAME poses, but one included all team members and one did not.
"Unfortunately, the first one was posted on the school’s social accounts and in the school yearbook. Additionally, Morgyn’s name wasn’t even mentioned as a part of the team. She wasn’t included. She spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out."
In a statement posted to the school's Facebook page, which has now been deleted, and emailed to TODAY, Shoreline Junior High School expressed their remorse.
"We are deeply saddened by the mistake that was made," the statement read. "We are continuing to look at what has occurred and why it occurred. Apologies have been made to the family and we sincerely apologize to others impacted by this error. We will continue to address it with the parents of the student. We will continue to look at our processes to ensure this does not happen again."
Both Shoreline Junior High School and the cheerleading squad have since suspended all their social accounts.
Poll said the family hopes to learn where the breakdown occured.
"I'm grateful that we raised the awareness so that the school took it seriously," Poll said. "They didn’t have any immediate answers, but I’m excited that they are taking the time to now look into it. I hope the answers will continue to come."
Poll's post, which has garnered over 8,000 likes and nearly 7,000 shares, has sparked outrage nationwide, including backlash for other members of the cheer squad.
"I think this is probably one of the saddest pieces," Poll shared. "There’s been so much hate directed to these other girls and it’s so unnecessary. They are kind and did their very best to include Morgyn and make her feel like she belongs and they continue to do so and continue to reach out and let her know that she is loved. If it was up to them, they would have included her in the photos."
The family hopes the online attention sparks change, not more anger.
"My hope is that we can learn from this situation and learn from the mistakes that happened and we can just try a little harder to be a little better," Poll said. "Being better isn’t about turning around and pointing fingers and causing blame. They’re just as important as Morgyn. We don’t need to forget that in this process. We should be able to raise awareness and fight for what's right without getting cruel."
Poll said Morgyn is handling the situation with her trademark kindness.
"I think a lot we can learn from her example," Poll said. "She’s forgiven them and moved on. She’s sad, when she looks at the pictures. Her example speaks a lot, and she’s excited to continue to find memories and continue cheering."
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