Teen battling cancer told she couldn't wear hat in school picture

Teen battling cancer told she couldn't wear hat in school picture
Teen battling cancer told she couldn't wear hat in school picture
Posted at 4:19 AM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 00:25:12-04

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KOAT/CNN) – While Picture Day is typically one of the biggest days of the school year for kids, one middle school student, who is battling cancer, said instead it was one of the most humiliating.

When a photographer told 13-year-old Bella Thurston to take her hat off at Hoover Middle School’s Picture Day, the teenager says she was stunned.

"It was just really humiliating and upsetting for me. I was trying really hard not to cry. It was just not a good experience," Bella said.

Bella is battling cancer, and she started wearing hats when some of her hair fell out after recent chemotherapy treatments.

"He says it's against policy. And I was like, 'OK, so I can't wear my hat?' And he was like, 'No, you can go fix your hair, take your hat off or I won't take your picture.' And I didn't let him take my picture because I didn't feel that I needed to take my hat off in order for him to take my picture,” she said.

Bella’s mother, Kara Thurston, says she was outraged when she found out.

"When something happens to your kid that you can't fix, it's heartbreaking, and you feel helpless," she said.

Officials with Lifetouch Photography apologized for what they call a "misunderstanding."

"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," they said.

But Bella says she doesn’t want special treatment because of her cancer. She just wants to be treated like everyone else.

"I would not like to be singled out. I would like my picture to be taken the normal way and to be in the same spot that it always is in the yearbook," she said.

A spokesperson for Albuquerque Public Schools confirmed the district met with the photography company about the Thurstons’ concerns. They say more training is in store for staffers who work with kids.

Copyright 2018 KOAT, Kara Thurston via CNN. All rights reserved.