Photographer forces 13-year-old cancer patient who lost hair from chemotherapy to remove hat for class photo
The photographer who worked for Lifetouch Photography told Bella that she needed to remove her hat before he could take the photo as it was against company policy
A photographer who was assigned to click yearbook photos on picture day at school told a 13-year-old girl undergoing chemotherapy treatment to take off her hat, which she was using to hide her hair loss. Now, the student says she felt humiliated by his actions.
The incident took place during Hoover Middle School's official school picture day, said 13-year-old Bella Thurston of Albuquerque, New Mexico. "It was just really humiliating and upsetting for me," Bella told KOAT. "I was trying really hard not to cry. It was just not a good experience."
After a recent round of chemotherapy treatment Bella underwent for her brain and spine tumors, some of her hair started falling out, forcing the embattled teenager to wear a hat. She was first diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of five.
According to Bella, the photographer, who worked for Lifetouch Photography, told her on picture day that she needed to remove her hat before he could take the photo as it was against company policy.
Bella decided not to get her picture taken after being forced to remove her hat for the photo. She recalled the incident, saying, "I was like, 'OK, so I can't wear my hat?' And he was like, 'No, you can go fix your hair, take your hat off or I won't take your picture.'"
Bella's mother, Kara Thurston, was stunned and angry after hearing what happened to her daughter.
She said that she felt "heartbroken" and "helpless" after hearing what happened to Bella, considering it was something she couldn't fix.
Lifetouch Photography offered an apology for the 'misunderstanding' after they were reached for comment by KOAT. In a statement, they said, "We sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding that occurred with a student at Hoover Middle School and one of our photographers. It is always our intention to create a comfortable environment for our students. We have been in touch with the school and have reached out to the family to offer their daughter a complimentary photography session in a place of their choosing."
They also promised to revisit "our training protocol with our photographers" after hearing what Bella had to go through.
In a conversation with KOAT, a spokesperson for Albuquerque Public Schools said that the school district has already met with Lifetouch Photography to ensure that revised training is given to its staffers who interact with children after concerns were raised by Bella and her mother.
However, Bella says she doesn't want to be "singled out" for special treatment just because she has cancer.
That said, she just wants to have her school picture "taken the normal way" like everyone else, in the same location where all the yearbook pictures are taken. She has no interest in a special photography session offered by the company as compensation.