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High School to Allow Banned Photo in Yearbook

Senior Kenton Koos' picture will be in the yearbook this year.

OUTSIDE SAN FRANCISCO --  A local high school student's senior picture will run in the yearbook after it was initially rejected by Amador Valley High School school administrators for being inappropriate.

The yearbook photo flap started when the school administration received a copy of his picture, which had been taken in October. In the photo, Kenton Koos, 18, sports a large nose ring and a Mike Tyson-type of tattoo on his face.

Koos, 18, said in an interview with Pleasanton Patch Wednesday that before he had the picture taken, he checked with his yearbook advisor and editor, Julie Foley, about his plan and was given permission.

So Koos went to the mall with his mom, Kathy Koos, to get a removable tattoo applied. Koos, who normally looks clean-cut, said he added the nose ring and hairstyle right before the shoot.

"I just wanted to do something fun," Koos said.

When asked why he chose the Mike Tyson look, Koos said he "just thought it looked cool." According to Koos, the photographer tried to talk him out of going through with the photo but he stuck to his guns.

Koos said his mom got a call from Vice Principal Rick Sira last week telling them the picture could not be used in the yearbook. Koos decided he was not going to give up and he contacted the media.

"My friends have been surprised it became such a big deal," Koos said. "I have taken 12 school photos while in the Pleasanton Unified School District,  and I have followed the policy until picture 13.

The Contra Costa Times reported that ACLU attorney Linda Lye called the ban a "blatant violation" of a provision in the state's Education Code, which protects freedom of speech in school publications.

Kathy Koos has been supportive of her son from the beginning and feels he has a lot of strength.

"Kenton said 'no, it was his right to use the picture he wanted'," she said. "The school was very positive and said they just didn't want it in the yearbook. Sira handled it politely and professionally and even tried to offer a compromise. My only regret — and I don't regret the photo — is that we did not give (the principal) a heads up."

Kathy says they have learned a lot from this ordeal.

"It taught me that we can disagree on an issue but the bottom line is that he is my son, and I am going to back him up," she said. "Where do you draw the line? If a look offends someone? Dreadlocks? Or even cheerleading outfits can be offensive to some. The world isn't a pretty, perfect place. It doesn't ruin the yearbook with one photo. If that is how you want to be remembered, it is up to you."

According to Koos, he had a 3.0 grade point average while attending Amador Valley High School. He has been doing independent study for the last quarter, while working 30 to 40 hours a week and volunteering for a feral cat foundation. While at Amador Valley, Koos played lacrosse.

Since the story became public, the school has decided to use the picture in the yearbook.

"Principal [Jim] Hansen called and said they were going to accept the photo," he said. "He asked if I was sure I wanted to do this, and I told him I would think about it and let him know. I am going to tell him I want to use the photo. I feel pretty strong in my convictions."

Odie Douglass, speaking on behalf of the Pleasanton Unified School District's Superintendant Parvin Ahmadi said, "Students can have freedom of expression as long as it is not profane, sexual or racial."

Take our poll: Should Kids Have the Freedom to do What They Want in a Yearbook Photo?

What do you think about the yearbook photo? Tell us in the comments section.

PTOWN December 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM
obviously you love to get into drama. its funny how much you care about something and somebody you know nothing about, now get over it.
The Rabbit! December 12, 2012 at 01:33 AM
@anon...Are you afraid to stand behind your name or your values? At least Kenton has the courage to use his real name. My heart goes out to him and his family. But as an FYI, these are not related issues and shame on you for trying to malign a young adult who you disagree with. KARMA does bite you know.
Michael M December 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Those of you out there that disparage Village should learn more about what they do at the school and how the program works. I do not have kids at Village but would not be embarrassed if I did. Knocks at Village are completely inappropriate. See this write up on Village on the district website http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/village/ and this article on the community that Village creates http://unioncity.patch.com/articles/villge-high-pleasanton-provides-counseling-to-friends-of-missing-teen-tricia-martin-found-in-possible-suicide-in-newark and this story about the catering program offered through Village http://pleasanton.patch.com/articles/village-high-school-catering-students-achieve-great-success
Michael M December 13, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Eric - you are 100% correct, but the larger issue is it is a personal choice Mr. Koos made. It is not a decision that people outside the circle of family and friends have any place scolding him about. Opinions, fine, but it is not our life. If you ask me, would I hire someone who did this in a HS yearbook, I would say "I do not know." Where does he end up going to college? what type of work experience does he have? what type of business do I have (obviously a barista in a coffee house can look like this and a banker probably should not)? is it a customer facing position? He is 18 and has a lot of life ahead of him to make additional decisions and learn the impact that decisions may have on his future.
Michael M December 13, 2012 at 07:29 PM
This would concern me more than his looks http://pleasanton.patch.com/articles/police-log-yearbook-photo-flap-student-on-drug-charge. Hopefully he can overcome any potential issues this causes and lead a healthy life.

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