For his senior portrait, Josh Renville couldn’t have settled for clutching a guitar or leaning against his first car. The Fargo teen wanted something that captured his interests, his passions.
An ardent fan of this great nation, the Fargo North High student threw on a star-spangled tank top and stood in front of an American flag outside his house. No one would have thought twice if it wasn’t for the assault rifle over his shoulder.
The gun-toting lad submitted the photo for his final high school yearbook. But on Monday, school officials, well, shot it down. Josh’s father, Charlie Renville, didn’t take kindly to the school’s refusal to publish it and unleashed a Facebook rant calling for the principal’s job. By Thursday afternoon Charlie’s post had been shared roughly 1,500 times.
“He just wanted to show his pride in being an American and his love for his country,” Charlie explained in an interview.
That, and his love of things that go boom. Josh is an avid hunter and trap shooter who started a local trap team that competes in a Fargo league. The mechanically savvy kid actually built the semiautomatic accessory in the photo and uses it for target practice and blasting vermin.
“I really didn’t think they’d reject it,” Charlie said.
So this is the state of freedom in our Nation today! Fargo North High school has rejected this picture for Josh's year...
Fargo North principal Andy Dahlen argued that it doesn’t jibe with various laws and school policies, including one that bans weapons from school grounds and another prohibiting school-sponsored media from publishing anything that promotes law-breaking, violence, or terrorism. The third bans student clothing that promotes booze, drugs, and guns, among other non-classroom-friendly things.
While neither specifically rules out armed yearbook photos, taken collectively, Dahlen and other district staff determined Josh’s photo should not be included.
“It’s clear from our perspective that if you have a law that prevents kids from having that on school property than you surely wouldn’t put that picture in your yearbook,” Dahlen said.
Charlie’s not having it, though. He claims Dahlen is a “pretty liberal” fella who has targeted his “traditional conservative” family before, like when school staff allegedly told Josh and his buddies not to debate gun rights in the school cafeteria. Dahlen denies having any sort of vendetta against specific students or families.
Still, Charlie — now in his 50s — reminisces about his high school days when he and his farm boy friends would keep shotguns in their cars so they could go pheasant hunting after class. He claims other Fargo North kids used to have hunting pictures with guns displayed in the yearbooks. Dahlen said that hasn’t been the case in at least four years.
“We live in a different world today than we did when I went to school or maybe even when you went to school,” he said. “So, I think we have to look at things differently.”
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