A high school in North Dakota told Josh Renville and his family that his senior picture was a no-go for the school’s yearbook.
Why? Because the 17-year-old is posing next to an American flag with a rifle he built himself. His father, Charlie, took to Facebook to exclaim his frustration with the school, particularly the principal, who he writes is “…a far left progressive who is using his position to promote his political agenda and push it on our children.” He ends his diatribe with a request that the principal lose his job.
However, there is more to the story. Principal Andy Dahlen tells the Fargo Forum that while yearbook photos depicting weapons are not explicitly forbidden, there are several school policies that prompted him to make this decision. For starters, you cannot bring weapons onto school property. You also cannot publish in school-sponsored media (like the yearbook) materials that promote violence, terrorism or other illegal activity. And finally, you cannot wear clothing to school that advertises or promotes weapons. When he reviewed the picture with those policies in mind, it was really a no-brainer to request that they submit another photo for consideration.
It can seem, on the surface, that this is an attack on this particular family. After all, a quick glance through Pinterest shows scads of gun-clutching seniors. Most seem to be from a hunting angle, which isn’t unusual, as hunting is a common activity many families partake in. But taking a senior photo while holding a gun isn’t the same as having one accepted into a school-sanctioned publication.
It makes sense that these rules are in place, because guns and other weapons do not belong in a school setting. Dress codes banning weapons are extremely common in school districts around the country, so it’s not too far of a stretch to understand that the school won’t allow photos depicting them in the yearbooks either. This isn’t targeting those who love their guns, who enjoy hunting or who have a strong family tradition of coming together over firearms. It’s simply a matter of keeping weapons (and depictions thereof) of any kind out of the school setting.
The school principal will be meeting again with the elder Renville and the district superintendent. While Dahlen doesn’t anticipate the decision on this particular situation changing, he says they may hammer out a more specific rule that explicitly deals with weapons in school photos that appear in the yearbook — which is probably the right move.