Cancer-fighting middle school student told to remove hat on picture day

August 23, 2018 10:55 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque middle school student, who is battling cancer, would like to forget all about picture day.

"I was just really upset and in a state of shock that I really didn't say anything until I got home," said 13-year-old Bella Thurston, who goes to Hoover Middle School while she also deals with Ependymoma. 


On picture day, she wore a hat because she doesn’t have a full head of hair right now, a side effect of her medical treatment.

Bella’s mother, Kara Thurston, said the photographer didn’t want Bella to wear the hat.

"When it came to her turn, she was last in line because she's the shortest in her class, the photographer told her she couldn't take a picture with her hat on and she told him, ‘I'm allowed to wear my hat’ and he said, ‘you need to take your hat off,’” Thurston said.

Bella’s said she was on the verge of tears.

"I was just really upset and I didn't really want to say anything since I was the last person. Everyone was just kind of looking at me and I was trying hard not to cry. So I kind of just walked off and went and stood in the corner until it was time for our class to leave," Bella said.

Bella's mother spoke to the principal, who apologized for the photographer’s conduct.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, a cancer survivor, also weighed in on the incident.

"It truly broke my heart,” Reedy said. “One of the things we're going to do is, is go back and investigate and see what went on and how did this unwind supposedly, this whole incident and how could we have done things differently so that this does not occur again. I just don't want any child to go through that again."

Bella’s mother says she isn’t upset with the school, she just thinks Bella deserves an apology from the photographer.

"No kid fighting this kind of battle should ever have to apologize for themselves," she said.

The photography company, Lifetouch, issued the following statement:

We sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding that occurred with a student at Hoover Middle School and one of our photographers.  It is always our intent to create a comfortable environment for our students.  We have been in touch with the school and have reached out to the family to offer their daughter a complimentary photography session in a place of their choosing.  In light of this, we will be revisiting our training protocol with our photographers.


Casey Torres / KOB

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