Lifetouch Photographer Gets Flak Over Disabled Boy's School Photo
Elementary school class photos are supposed to create happy memories that can last a lifetime, especially for parents. But the work of one photographer for Lifetouch Canada left the parents of 7-year-old Miles Ambridge heartbroken and sparked a furor on the Internet, according to reports.
As seen in the video above, the photographer, who hasn't been identified in reports, snapped Ambridge's second grade class at Herbert Spencer Elementary in New Westminster, B.C., but conspicuously left the boy, who uses a wheelchair, to the side. Ambridge -- who was diagnosed at 13 months with spinal muscular atrophy and is paralyzed -- is shown smiling and leaning toward his classmates, perhaps in an effort to be better seen as part of the group, which New York's Daily News estimates was three feet away.
Ambridge's mother, Anne Belanger, said that she was devastated when she saw the photo. "Kids can be cruel, but this comes from adults, [who] should know better," she told The Province, a newspaper in British Columbia that broke the story and published the class photo on its front page. "I'm not on a warpath," Belanger said. "I just want to bring awareness that this was not acceptable." Facebook page. The photo went viral and drew outrage from some of those offended by how the boy was depicted. "I wanted to cry," @PSprehe tweeted. Some have gone further, such as Toni Goethe, who in a tweet said that the separation seen in the photo qualifies as "discrimination."
According to Spencer Elementary's principal, Tracy Fulton, Lifetouch at first saw no problem. But after some "coaxing" from the school, as The Province report put it, LifeTouch manager Dean Cochrane admitted that the photographer erred and that its photographer should have made adjustments for Ambridge. "This will be a learning experience for this photographer," Cochrane said.
No word yet on whether the photographer's job has been placed in jeopardy, but the photo was re-shot last week, with the boy out of his wheelchair and placed beside his classmates in the bleachers. And on Tuesday, the new photo was making the rounds on the Internet after it was printed by The Province. After being shown the photo, Miles was thrilled. "Oh, mommy! This is so nice," he told her.
For their part, the parents say they don't believe the incident was willful discrimination. But for them, the carelessness didn't lessen the hurt.
"He's just trying to be part of the picture and he's having a great time doing it," his father told CBC News. "I think that's part of the pain for me. ... [I]t's just so innocent where you start thinking, 'How dare you?' "
This story was updated on Wednesday at 1:15 PM EDT with information about the second photo.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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