ROCKLIN (CBS13) – A Whitney High School class photo is causing controversy among students after a group photo of them was altered after it was taken. But the Rocklin Unified School District said it was done in the name of inclusion.

In the group photo, Blake Whitney stands among his leadership peers and wears his patriotism proud. But he and many of his friends were surprised when he got the photo back.

“I noticed all of the stickers and pins were missing,” said Whitney.

The stickers were branded with ‘Turning Point USA,’ a conservative club on campus. The organization has around 2,500 chapters on high schools and colleges nationally. The website lists its founder as known conservative, Charlie Kirk.

The Whitney High chapter members took a photo with their other leadership peers at the end the school’s ‘inclusion week.’ Earlier that day, the club, one of many, set up tables to take part in the activities. Brayden Locketz, another TPUSA member, said he was eager to discuss politics with those willing to discuss.

ORIGINAL PHOTO (TAP FOR LARGE VERSION)

But after the photo, any pins or stickers members wore were edited and removed from their shirts. The stickers shown to CBS13 said slogans like ‘I ‘Heart’ America,’ ‘Free Speech,’ and ‘USA’. Locketz said they were given no warning prior to the photo being taken.

AIRBRUSHED PHOTO (TAP FOR LARGE VERSION)

“It might have been a different story. But they went ahead and did it after the fact,” Locketz said. “They made us feel like we were bad people for doing that.”

The Rocklin Unified School District sent CBS13 this statement in regards to the photo:

“Following the conclusion of Whitney High School’s Inclusion Week that took place last week, the Associated Student Body (ASB) student leaders participated in a group photo to show school unity. Some students wore stickers that they received from a handful of school-sanctioned clubs. These stickers included symbols of the clubs and were removed from the group photo with the goal of honoring the group of ASB students without any other club affiliation in the spirit of equity, inclusivity and school unity,” sent Sundeep Dosanjh, a spokesperson for the district.

“It’s just really astounding to me,” Whitney said, believing his club was the only one that had stickers removed.

Constitutional law expert, Jeff Kravitz, told CBS13 the school’s edit is legally allowed.

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“The person or thing that’s speaking in this photograph is the school,” Kravitz said. “The speaker has the right to state whatever they want to do.” He also said while it is okay, the school could have let the students know ahead of time, out of courtesy.

Still, the same thought looms for many of these students.

“Students from my club don’t feel good on this campus whatsoever,” Whitney said. “We feel like the school is trying to silence us.”

In the spirit of inclusion, he said this move only makes them feel more divided.

Heather Janssen