O’FALLON, MO (KTVI) – A St. Charles County mom feels her special needs daughter was discriminated against on school picture day. Now, she’s hoping school photographers will become more aware, and better equipped to capture the essence of all children.
Meet Abby Lubiewski. The bubbly 3 and a half-year old loves her family, her pretzels, and sparkly jeans. She only sees them, thanks to her thick glasses. Abby was born with cataracts, due to a rare genetic syndrome, called Hallerman-Streiff.
“Without her glasses, she only perceives light and dark. So she has no vision at all without her glasses,” explains her mother, Amanda Lubiewski.
That’s why Amanda was disturbed when she saw Abby’s school pictures on Friday: no glasses, and a strained, uncomfortable smile. She says, “I knew then that she couldn’t see, and I couldn’t quite comprehend what would be going through someone’s mind to ask her to take those off.”
Even Abby noticed a problem with the picture. Looking at the photo, she says, “What happened to my glasses?”
The picture also bothered Amanda because it’s the official photo authorities would use if her toddler ever went missing. She explains, “This is very unsafe for her, because her picture doesn’t look like her without her glasses.”
Amanda quickly found out Abby’s classmates were allowed to wear their glasses in the school pictures. That’s when she reached out to LifeTouch School Photography on Facebook. She explains, “Telling them how unhappy we were, and how disrespectful we thought it was that she was treated differently than other children in the school.”
The photographer did take two pictures with Abby’s glasses on, but she was looking away. Her mom says other photographers have worked around the glare these thick glasses sometimes cause.
The company apologized to Amanda, stating, “We should have never had your daughter remove her glasses for the photo…We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind on our team.” They also offered to re-take Abby’s picture at no cost. That’s scheduled for next Monday.
For all the other kids with special needs, Amanda feels school photographers should be better trained to respect children’s differences and disabilities, and to capture their personalities regardless. She adds, “It’s not just about getting a cute picture of her. It’s how she was treated, and how it seems like she was treated differently because there was a part of her that was difficult to photograph.”