Writer's note: I regret that I did not contact the school before I published the original story to offer school administrators the opportunity for comment. Although all previous requests to the school for comment have gone unreturned, Outsports.com should have provided the school the opportunity to respond to this story prior to publishing. For that I offer my sincere apology to school administrators.
Betsy Layne High School in rural Kentucky this year had a two-page yearbook spread that featured individual photographs of all of the seniors on the boys basketball team. Except, one senior was left out of the tribute: Dalton Maldonado, the team's starting point guard who came out publicly as gay a couple months ago.
The school district says this was an innocent mistake.
"Yes, the individual picture for the student athlete was omitted from the school's basketball section through error," Floyd County superintendent Henry L. Webb said in a statement. "According to the photographer, the student athlete did have his picture taken along with other team members but he requested the digital file be sent to him for approval and editing and she did comply with his request. The file was returned by the student athlete to the photographer but the file that was sent by the photographer to the school did to not contain a photo for this specific student athlete. During the review process at the school which involved several different individuals the omission was not found."
You can read the school's entire statement on the incident here. The school is making amends by publishing the pages - including Maldonado - as an insert to the yearbook and distributing them to anyone who wants one.
Yet Maldonado feels this is just the latest slap in the face of him and the entire LGBT community by a high school administration that simply, he believes, won't accept that one of its star athletes is gay and that he was harassed for his sexual orientation by an opposing basketball team last December.
Unquestioned is the fact that he was, in fact, left out of the page's call-out tributes to the team's players (even including underclassmen):
Maldonado confirmed with Outsports that each of the other players on the bottom of the page was a senior, and that he is the only player omitted from the page.
He commented on Facebook about his omission from the yearbook tribute page, and other actions the school has taken to marginalize him and his story:
"Then I had a person [affiliated] with the school tell me what they had learned about the school attempting to cover up the whole story. I recently saw my senior yearbook, I flipped right to the sports basketball page only to find my senior basketball picture missing...which devastated me."
Previously the school has refused to answer questions or disputed what Maldonado has claimed regarding an incident with Bryan Station High School last December, despite various eye witnesses confirming that Maldonado was targeted by anti-gay harassment. Maldonado and eye witness claim he was targeted, and his bus followed, by members of the other school's basketball team because they thought he was gay, a fact he confirmed shortly after their game over the Christmas break.
Maldonado has asserted privately several times that he has felt the target of homophobia by some at the school. He even shared a letter from a mother who had to move her son to another school because he's gay.
"My son was bullied there for two consecutive years to the point that he wanted to kill himself," the mother wrote to Maldonado. "I took him out after years of trying to get something done."
While the school firmly asserts the yearbook omission was a simple oversight and that the school embraces diversity, it's difficult to believe this was completely accidental. Maldonado was the starting point guard on the team for the entire season. He was arguably the most well-known player on the team, receiving national attention for a story Outsports published in the spring. It's difficult to believe the people organizing these pages would not notice Maldonado was missing.
Still, the school has insisted this was an innocent mistake.
Either way, Maldonado has found support from LGBT people and supporters both in and outside his hometown. This fall he will attend the University of Louisville, which already has provided him with a support structure.