Students try to pose with all kinds of things for their senior high school yearbook photo (even their laser cats.) But a Nebraska school district located in a community with a strong hunting culture got some serious looks this week when it announced that students could use firearms as props in their pics.
"We are a very rural community right in the center of Nebraska where hunting and other shooting sports are very popular," Mark Sievering, the Broken Bow Public Schools Superintendent, told ABC News. "We have something that is known as the One Box Pheasant Hunt that is a hunt attended by people all over the nation."
The flap over the Broken Bow senior pictures came just days before a school shooting in Washington state, which left the teenage gunman and two others dead, re-igniting the national conversation about guns and schools.
(*All photo captions courtesy of photographer Brian Baer.)
But according to Sievering, the school's policy -- which allows students to pose with props ranging from a basketball to a rifle as long as they adhere to the school's dress code and the image is "tasteful and appropriate" -- is catching up with the rest of the Midwest.
The town of 3,500 only has one high school which, in any given year, graduates 60 to 70 seniors. Yet when the local paper broke the story earlier this week, Sievering said he got calls from all over the country from people who were imagining a "fourth-grader coming to school and having their picture taken with a gun."
That's not the case, though, Sievering said. Students take their portraits off campus and there are rules, including: Students can pose with objects that illustrate their accomplishments, including hunting and shooting items such as a rifle, shotgun or knife, but they may not be brandishing the weapon or pointing it at the camera. Students also cannot submit a photo of game they've shot if the animal is in "obvious distress."
There was never actually a ban on weapons in senior photos, but the district generally frowned on it until last year, when a yearbook advisor asked and Sievering realized there was no rule against it, so why not let student hunters pose with their guns?
At a meeting on Monday, school board members voted 6-0 in favor of allowing weapons in photos after pressure from parents.
Photographer Brian Baer takes about 100 senior pictures a year in the area around the school and he told the Omaha World-Herald that he doesn't know of any schools in the area that ban firearms in portraits. He allows firearms in his studio after checking to make sure they are not loaded.