Picture this: You get an email from the photographer you’ve hired to take a portrait of your high school senior. The photographer attaches a screenshot of a Facebook page on which your daughter is saying mean things (of the “she is a slut” variety) about another girl. The photographer cancels the photo session, saying she won’t take pictures of people who do ugly things.
What do you do?
That’s the situation that faced four sets of parents in Pennsylvania. Photographer Jennifer McKendrick says she was told about the page by a friend, and when she looked at it she saw the names of four clients for upcoming shoots. She posted a Facebook note asking for feedback on her dilemma (without identifying the girls), then sent the emails to parents. Then she wrote a blog about it. The story has spread all over the Internet, and McKendrick’s Facebook page has been deluged with praise and “you go, girl!” comments.
This is the kind of seemingly clear-cut story (“Bullies get their comeuppance!”) that invariably gets clouded as more details surface. But let’s take it at face value for now.
As a businessperson, she has a right to deny service to people she finds distasteful–as long as they are not in a protected class which, so far, bullies are not. It took guts to take a stand on a moral issue that involved losing bookings.
Especially on the topic of bullying. We all love to wring our hands about mean behavior in kids, but few of us really do anything about it. And the fact is that grownups too often are setting the standard for dissing other people. That includes, for example, parents gossiping about neighbors in front of their kids. It also includes politicians. Our state legislators were extremely quick to pass the nation’s sternest anti-bullying law for schools. But just listen to the language they use when talking to and about each other. It’s easier to prescribe for others than to take responsibility for our own actions.
Which leads us back to the parents in this story. In her blog post, McKendrick said she had so far received two responses from parents, expressing dismay about their daughter’s actions and saying they would deal with it. The other two families had not yet responded.
If I saw that my child had written mean comments about a peer on Facebook, you better believe there would be consequences. I would thank the photographer for bringing it to my attention, then deal with it privately.
But I would really, really wish McKendrick had also handled the matter privately, without Facebook postings and blogs about it. Even if she didn’t name the girls, there’s no doubt–given the light-speed at which teens spread information–that the people in their town now know exactly who was involved, the bullying girls as well as the bullied one.
What do you think? As a parent, if you got that email from a photographer, what would your reaction be?