Mom upset after photography company removes little girl’s glasses for school photo

Three-and-a-half-year-old Abby Lubiewski, from O’Fallon, Mo., was born with cataracts due to Hallerman-Streiff syndrome, a rare genetic condition.

“Without her glasses, she only perceives light and dark. So she has no vision at all without her glasses,” her mother, Amanda Lubiewski, told Fox 2 Now.

On Friday, Amanda got her first look at Abby’s official school photo. The preschooler wasn’t wearing her glasses. And she looked uncomfortable.

“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,” Amanda said.

Abby's class photo, without her glasses (Tribune screen grab)
Abby's class photo, without her glasses (Tribune screen grab)

“The picture without her glasses is not a natural smile for her and you can tell by the way her neck muscles look strained. She’s just doing what the photographer likely told her to do by saying ‘cheese,’” she wrote on Facebook.

Even young Abby criticized the photo she first saw it: “What happened to my glasses?”

An additional concern: the photo was selected as an “ID” picture, so it would be used by authorities if Abby ever went missing -- and it looked nothing like her.

Amanda inquired about Abby’s other glasses-wearing classmates. Sure enough, they were wearing their glasses in their photos.

So, why not Abby?

Amanda contacted Lifetouch School Photography over Facebook, expressing her concern over the apparent discrimination.

“I know it is difficult to photograph her without getting glare from her extremely thick lenses on her glasses, but do NOT remove them to make your job easier,” she wrote on the company’s wall. “My baby girl LOVES her glasses and NEEDS them to function to the best of her ability. She is a strong, confident girl and deserves to show off every beautiful part of her, including her glasses.”

Abby at home, wearing her glasses (Tribune screen grab)
Abby at home, wearing her glasses (Tribune screen grab)

Lifetouch School Photography did take two other photos with Abby in her glasses, but she was looking down in them.

The company was quick to publicly apologize to Amanda:

“We should have never had your daughter remove her glasses for the photo, and there is no excuse for that,” theyposted online.

“Amanda, we strive to take photos that celebrate the uniqueness of each child, and we hope to do a better job of that with your daughter’s retake. Each of our photographers go through a formal training process, and we are always working to improve this process. We appreciate your feedback and we want you to know that we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind on our team.”

Abby’s scheduled photo retake — offered free of charge by the company — will take place next week.

Amanda is sure the missing-glasses incident won’t be repeated.

“And by the way, I already taught [Abby] to say she wants her glasses on if anybody EVER tries to take a picture of her and tells her to take her glasses off. She’s a smart cookie and will stand up for herself, so watch out!!” she wrote on Facebook.

This isn't the first time a school photo has sparked controversy.

In 2013, a B.C. boy who uses a wheelchair made headlines when he was placed to the side of his classmates in his Grade 2 photo. The photo was retaken, with him front and centre, days later.

And just this week, another class photo caused a stir when an Ohio school censored a eighth grader's "Feminist" T-shirt.

In cases like this, Judy Dutton of The Stir worries that, while the reshoot is an appropriate offer from the photography company, “subtle damage may already be done.”

“These glasses are part of who Abby is, much like the clothes she wears,” she wrote. “Now, she may be wondering, ‘What’s wrong with my glasses? What’s wrong with me?’ She may be questioning her appearance for the very time…at 3 years old.”

She continued:

“Kids can be so sensitive about what makes them different — which is why parents and schools should go to great lengths to make them feel okay and accepted regardless of how they look.”

What do you think? Was the photography company and the school in the wrong? Let us know in the comments.