Student's 'feminist' shirt sparks conversation, controversy

Published: Apr. 16, 2015 at 2:20 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2015 at 2:26 AM EDT
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The altered shirt with the word "feminist" removed. (Photo: Twitter)
The altered shirt with the word "feminist" removed. (Photo: Twitter)
Unaltered class photo (Photo: Glutz-McIntire Photography)
Unaltered class photo (Photo: Glutz-McIntire Photography)

BATAVIA, OH (FOX19) - A simple middle school class picture is sparking controversy, and it's all over one word printed on a student's t-shirt.

Clermont Northeastern Middle School student Sophie Thomas, an eighth grader, wore a shirt that said ‘feminist' on the front as she sat in the front row of the class picture.  In the final picture, the t-shirt was edited and the word was

cut out.

"I sat down.  No one said anything to me,” Sophie Thomas said.

She found out that the shirt was edited when she got a look at the class picture that her friend had ordered.

"I checked it to make sure I didn't look dumb or anything - closing my eyes.  I saw that they I saw that they had removed the word from

my shirt, and I was insanely upset,” said Thomas.

The shirt doesn't violate the school's dress code, says Principal Kendra Young, who told Thomas the alteration was her decision.

"It was mine [Young] and the photographer's decision to photoshop your shirt because some people might find it offensive,” Thomas said.

Young says the photo is typically purchased by students, and displayed in the school and wanted to keep it as least controversial as possible.

"They didn't inform me about this.  They just did it without any permission,” Thomas said.

Her decision to wear the shirt on picture day, she says, was unintentional.  In fact, she's worn the shirt several times to school.  This

time she chose to wear it after she says she had a conversation with a high school student that she said ended with the student making some sexist comments.

"I was just showing everybody that this is me, and if you don't like it, you don't have to be my friend.  I'm going to stand up for what

I believe in,” Thomas said.

Thomas, her mother and school officials met a few days ago.  The plan, she says, is to start a bigger conversation about the social issue

in the hallways.

"I'm happy that she's getting so much support behind something she really believes in, and so many people believe in her and what she's

doing,” said Sophie's mother, Christine Thomas.

The school's principal told us that edits have been made to other class photos in the past, as things such as hand gestures were taken
out of the final product.

The superintendent, Ralph Shell, says the word "feminist" wasn't the only thing removed from the picture.

"This particular photograph not only had the word feminism in the front row very plainly could be seen, but there was also some young men in the background that were doing not appropriate things with their hands. So the principal made the decision to airbrush the word feminism and the hands out," Shell said.

Shell insists the district is not anti-feminist as it's being portrayed on social media.
Thomas says the school will work to educate students on the issue through events like group discussions and guest speakers. 
As it stands, Thomas says she has no plans to buy the photo. 
To show support for her cause, she and a friend worked to make shirts bringing light and awareness to a conversation about feminism. 
Students wore them to school on Friday.  Thomas says any money she raised from selling shirts will go to feminism awareness.

Thomas says that her cause has stretched to other countries, as people have sent her photos of them wearing 'feminist' shirts in support.

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