Glenda DeFabio is a student with special needs, and she felt crushed when she found out that her picture was exlcuded in the yearbook of her high school this year. According to Claudia, Glenda's sister, Glenda, is a "bubble of positivity," which is why their family is emotional about what happened.
Claudia shared the story of their sister being excluded from the yearbook in a Facebook post. The post quickly became viral after it was posted last Thursday. The school has since apologized to the family.
Glenda is a 20-year-old from New Jersey who has Down Syndrome. She is part of a program at Watchung Hills Regional High School. The program allows students with special needs to continue studying until the age of 21.
The family's thoughts on the yearbook incident
In an interview with TODAY, Claudia shared how heartbroken their family was about what happened. Mainly, their mother, Jill DeFabio, had a hard time explaining to Glenda why she was excluded in the yearbook.
Claudia also said that as a family, they are advocating for Glenda to make the 20-year-old student feel she is a student, even if she has special needs. Claudia added, "We see her as our sister and not our sister with Down syndrome, and hope all people see it that way as well."
More than anything, the pain the DeFabio family feels the most is that Glenda does not fully understand why she is seen as different, and why she was excluded in the yearbook.
Claudia said, "Glenda is very active in the school and community, so from her perspective, it was tough for her to understand why she wasn't included."
In her Facebook post, Claudia said that she shared her sister's photo for the Internet to see since she was excluded from her high school's yearbook.
The high school apologizes and explains what happened.
In a statement from the superintendent of the Watchung Hills Regional High School, Elizabeth Jewett said that they are working on rectifying the situation.
Jewett also said that what happened was not intentional, "The District would never exclude any student from any aspect of Watchung Hills due to a disability, race/ethnicity, or for any other reason."
Aside from Glenda's photo, other students' photos were not included, and the school is already investigating the omission.
According to Claudia, her mother has signed a media release for students with special needs. This release allows the school to share Glenda's student photos. However, it has come to the DeFabio family's attention that special needs students need to inform the school on what grade they consider Glenda so that she will be part of that level.
Jewett also explained that there are student privacy laws which they are revisiting so that they would avoid the same incident in the future.
The school has already reached out to the DeFabio family. Claudia said that it could have been avoided if there had been better communication.
Because of what happened, Claudia feels there has been a positive change, mainly because the school was responsive. They have been informed that a supplementary yearbook will be provided where Glenda's picture is going to be there.
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