Ban on senior portrait photos including guns likely to remain, but exception for CHS Trapshooting team
will likely be made
After a firestorm erupted on social media Monday evening and into Tuesday in reaction to the Crookston School Board’s vote at their Monday meeting to immediately ban all photos that include firearms in the Crookston High School yearbook, including senior portraits as well CHS Trapshooting team photos, the board is going to reconsider the matter when it next meets on Jan. 22.
Board Chair Frank Fee told the Times late Tuesday morning that CHS Principal Eric Bubna had reached out to him Tuesday morning and suggested that Monday’s vote was likely undertaken “a bit too hastily” and that the board should put the matter on their Jan. 22 agenda for further discussion and a second vote. Fee said he expects that the Jan. 22 vote will be to ban senior portrait photos in the yearbook that include firearms, but allow photos of the trapshooting team on their page in the yearbook to include firearms. While saying he’s not speaking for the entire board, Fee said he figures the board would likely vote in favor of a yearbook firearms ban being scaled back from the one they approved Monday 5-1, with Adrianne Winger voting against.
Unexpected discussion and vote
Bubna’s discussion on the potential ban of guns in senior portrait yearbook photos, his recommendation, and the board’s decision to take immediate action on it kind of came up out of nowhere Monday. The issue was not included on the meeting agenda as a resolution to be discussed and voted on. The matter was detailed in Bubna’s monthly written report submitted to the board that is included in a packet of meeting materials provided in advance to local media. The three school principals submit such reports monthly and they are sent out to the board and media late in the week prior to a Monday board meeting. Bubna did not submit his report in time to be included in the packet disseminated prior to Monday’s meeting, but he did email board members on Jan. 3 alerting them that his report would include his recommendation regarding firearms in yearbook senior portrait pictures. Monday evening after the board meeting, Bubna provided that Jan. 3 email to the Times along with his monthly report, the latter at the Times’ request.
In the Jan. 3 email, Bubna said he’d be recommending that guns not be allowed in senior portraits, but that an exception be made for the trapshooting team’s page in the yearbook. When the matter came up near the end of Monday’s meeting, Bubna said he wouldn’t argue if the board wanted to wait to implement such a policy next year, and he said he also wouldn’t argue if the board wanted to completely ban firearms in yearbook photos, include photos of the trapshooting team. When it was decided that the board would vote on the matter immediately, board members, other than Winger, seemed to rally behind the notion of a complete ban.
“You don’t see the basketball team photo with every kid holding a basketball,” Fee said. “You could easily do the same with the trap team.”
Not a new issue, but a twist this year
Bubna said at the meeting and reiterated in discussions with the Times Tuesday that in his four years as CHS principal, he’s typically OK’ed senior portraits to be published in the yearbook because they’ve all involved kids in their hunting gear and posing with their firearms they use to hunt. He said he figures he’s approved a half-dozen or so such photos over the past four years. He acknowledged that he’s made the decisions at his own discretion on a case-by-case basis, but said that he was starting to think that maybe that wasn’t the best way for such decisions to be made, and that an actual policy should probably be in place.
This year, though, Bubna said senior portrait of CHS senior Riley Schultz was a bit different in nature. “I didn’t find this one to be overtly bad or encouraging any kind of violence, but it was clearly different than what I’d seen in the past,” he told the Times. “There’s a lot of gray area with this…what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate. It’s difficult and ambiguous with a lot of in-between. So I thought we needed to be fair and consistent and not have it be just me (making the decision).”
Although he said he was initially inclined to allow the photo to appear in the yearbook and that it probably wouldn’t have raised a lot of eyebrows, Bubna told the Times that when he brought Schultz's photo to the attention of Superintendent Chris Bates and some board members, he started to get the feeling that he the board had better have the final say on the matter, not him.
Schultz’s mom, Breanna Rasmussen, attended Monday’s board meeting and told the board that her son is looking to join the National Guard after graduation, and that he worked two jobs to save money to assemble by himself the rifle he poses with in the photo. Schultz is not a member of the trapshooting team, but his mom said he is an avid target-shooter. Although he modified the rifle with a scope and different stock, Rasmussen said it is not any kind of assault rifle.
“These kids take pictures with what is their life, their love, their passion,” Rasmussen told the Times. “Each child should be able to represent themselves as they choose, never mind what is politically correct or accepted by society. There are no laws being broken and no harm being shown.”
Rasmussen said she was under the impression until late last week that Bubna would allow her son’s senior portrait to appear in the yearbook.
Asked about any possible “backpedaling” on his part regarding Schultz’s photo, Bubna said he feels he’s been clear with Rasmussen from the beginning “that this decision was going to be taken out of my hands and passed onto the school board.”
“I thought I put forth a recommendation that made sense,” he continued. “If we’re not going to allow (guns in senior portraits) in the future, then why not start now? But they could start next year if they wanted and I was fine with that. They went with doing it now and I support that.”
The board will next meet on Monday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. in the CHS choir/orchestra room.