(TRINITY, N.C.) — When Caitlin Tiller receives her high school yearbook later this month, she won’t find a single picture of herself on its pages.
Tiller’s photo was not allowed in the high school yearbook because she held her baby boy in the picture.
“The lady who runs the yearbook texted me and said, ‘We can’t use your picture in the yearbook because it promotes teen pregnancy,’” Tiller, 18, from Trinity, N.C., told ABC News about the exchange last month.
Wheatmore High School, in Trinity, N.C., allowed students to use a prop in their yearbook photos that would show something they were proud of when they posed for the photos last summer.
“There were no stipulations,” Tiller’s mom Karen Morgan, 42, also from Trinity, told ABC News. “They said, ‘Use whatever you want.’”
Tiller’s son, Leelin, 1, had just been born last summer when she took him to her yearbook photo appointment. “Everyone saw me with Leelin,” Tiller said. “No one said anything about me having my picture taken with him.”
That was until April 12, just days before the yearbook was going to print when the teacher at the school sent her the text notifying her that she had two days to submit a new photo without Leelin or not be in the yearbook.
“If he wasn’t going to be in it with me, I didn’t want be in it at all,” Tiller said.
Tiller, who graduated from high school early in December and is now attending Randolph County Community College, said the school fully supported her during her pregnancy. “They all helped me when I needed the help,” Tiller said. “I don’t understand why they’re being like this.”
Tiller said her best friend, who has a child, was also not allowed to have her picture with her child in the yearbook. She said, however, that a photo of a pregnant student, who posed with hands around her stomach, was allowed to be in the yearbook.
Both Tiller and Morgan said they tried to speak to school officials, but were not successful. ”I tried to fight it, but no one was budging,” Tiller said. Morgan said one school board member even hung up on her.
Donald E. Andrews, superintendent of Randolph County Schools, said in a statement to ABC News, “The practice at Wheatmore High School regarding yearbook pictures for seniors has been to include only graduating students in the senior section, and to permit family members and friends to be featured with our seniors in the ad section of the yearbook.”
Andrews said they offered Tiller this option and regretted not making their policy clearer to her.
“I feel like it’s discrimination,” Tiller said.
Morgan said the school is trying to hide its teen moms rather than being proud of girls who stay in school and achieve their goals like her daughter.
“She finished high school early, started college this year, and is working 30-36 hours a week,” Morgan said. “It’s ridiculous. She has proven so much and been such an inspiration to teen moms.”
While it is too late for Tiller’s photo to be in the yearbook, she and Morgan hope that the attention her story has gotten will help other teen moms gain recognition for their hard work. ”Having a baby is not easy,” said Tiller, who is currently studying to be a medical assistant.
When asked what advice she had for teen moms, she said, “Keep on fulfilling your dreams.
“Don’t give up because that little baby needs you.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Brandon Griggs, CNN
Madeline Holcombe, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN