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East Bay School Allows Banned Yearbook Photo

Senior Kenton Koos's faux-tattooed-face head shot will be in the yearbook this year: Officials at Amador Valley High have reversed their stance on his edgy senior photo. A victory for freedom of expression? Tell us.

PLEASANTON --  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 this week 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.

Was the school out of line in rejecting Koos's photo? Tell us in the comments.

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."

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

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King Jarvis IV December 10, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Dude looks like a lady. LOL Another insecure person clocking Andy Warhol time. BTW, who that age goes to the mall with their mom? Again, another case of parent/friend. Pick a lane momsy HRM
Penny December 10, 2012 at 04:04 AM
That 15 minutes of fame is mighty precious!!
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau December 10, 2012 at 05:57 AM
This YOUNG ADULT OF 18 has a right to express himself in any way he chooses if it does not violate school policy. I give him complete respect for standing up to the school administration, knowing that they had no grounds to violate his right to free speech by expression. Support independence or suffer boredom.
King Jarvis IV December 10, 2012 at 03:27 PM
The Declaration of Independence helped shape this country, but discretion is the better part of valor With zombies and vampires, and everything else, certain segments of our society are either bored with themselves or trying to suckle from that font of fame. Tattoos 's also. Our parents put in a lot of "work" to give us the body that we came with. Then some folks say: " You know what, I don't like this generational gift that you gave me, Mom and Dad, I am for change." Pirates and convicts notwithstanding. Buy stock in about a decade in those companies into tattoo removal. LOL HRM
RoseOfPtown December 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Kenton, Glad you are reading this. Free speech is walking around campus with dreadlocks, grills, an afro, green spikey hair, two inch gagues or as a Goth. If that's what you do, put it in the yearbook, that's how your fellow students will remember you. If you walk around campus with a Bozo face, they should include it in the yearbook. Maybe not on the formal portraits page, but in the campus life sections, or the clowns club. Since you apparently don't have the courage to any of those, you act like an Internet troll. They don't face the people they offend or hurt. The good news is that with the Internet, Patch, CC Times, etc, you won't be hiding from this when you are applying for things in the next couple years. Why hire you at my store when you might show up next week looking like Mike Tyson, for fun of course and getting mommy to scream about your free speech rights. I'm not a fan of Tyson, but I do admire his willingness to make a statement with his face and not make it a frivolous joke on his classmates. If he came to Amador to finish his high school degree, nobody should complain. That's what free speech is. RP

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