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A Florida elementary school photo has caused a bit of controversy, after a photographer Photoshopped a Black smiley face in place of a student’s head (pictured).

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David Claussen, owner of the Davie-based Broward County Pictures, shot the image of the class of Sawgrass Elementary school second graders. He was later told that two students had not submitted signed release forms, according to reports.

Claussen, who has been in the school-picture taking industry for more than 35 years, found a unique solution to the problem: Adobe Photoshop.

He took out one student who was at the end of one row using the photo-editing software and inserted a Black cartoon-like smiley face over the face of the other student who was seated in the first row.

Some people have called Claussen’s decision “offensive” and “degrading,” and at least one parent, Gabriella Cans, told local news station Local 10 that the “image was humiliating.”

Local news report said:

Claussen said he was able to use the photo editing software Adobe Photoshop to lift one of the kids out, but had explained to them that there was a problem with the second student. He was sitting in the front row, right in the middle.

He showed me the notes he had written down on a white piece of paper as the pair discussed what to do. He said he would have gladly come out there to reshoot the image. Instead there was talk about putting a star over his face and then, he said,  the P.T.A. asked him to place a smiley face.

According to the local news station, it’s unclear if the boy is enrolled at Seagrass Elementary. School officials told Local 10 that privacy concerns prevented them from being able to confirm or deny if the student still attends the school.They were not able to locate the student or his parents.

The school’s P.T.A. wrote an e-mail message to Local 10 which said:

 “The PTA notified photographer after finding out that a child didn’t have a signed media release form from the parent. Broward Schools Photography covered the child’s face using an inappropriate sticker. The PTA disagrees with how the photography company handled it and worked with the photographer to have the picture retaken this Thursday. Immediate action was taken on behalf of the PTA. We love and protect our children.”

Parents who ordered a copy of the class photo are set to receive a new print free of charge, according to reports.


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Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog