For those of you who haven’t been following along, there’s been a battle raging at Fargo North High School over a yearbook photo submitted by senior Josh Renville featuring himself holding a gun in front of the American flag (see to the right).
The school disallowed the photo, and Josh’s father went to war (listen to an interview with him from last month here).
While I’m not certain that the Renvilles have a first amendment argument here – I think the school can apply whatever silly policy they like to their yearbook – there’s no question that the school administration’s reasons for denying the photo were downright silly.
“It’s really trying to emphasize the idea that the school is a safe zone,” Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen told ABC News about why the photo was banned.
Valley News Live reported Dahlen as saying the photo “violates state and federal laws outlawing weapons within a thousand feet of a school.”
So Dahlen’s argument is that a photo of a gun in a yearbook would make Fargo North high school less safe, and it would violate policies on bringing guns near schools.
Remember that we’re talking about a visual representation of a gun and not, you know, an actual gun.
So now flash forward to today. Jeffrey Stremick has a letter to the editor in the Fargo Forum today pointing out that another Fargo public school has an officially-sanctioned representation of young men with guns.
“As I was standing in line to pay my admission into the event, I looked up and was shocked to see what was painted on the wall of the Davies lunchroom/commons area,” Stremick writes. “What I saw was eerily similar to the photo Josh had submitted for publishing in the North High yearbook – young men who signed up for military service, rifles in hand, standing in front of a large American flag.”
The mural, which you can see above, is intended to honor former federal judge Ronald Davies who stood behind the Little Rock Nine and ordered the racial integration of the schools in Little Rock, AR. There are definitely, without a doubt, guns depicted in that mural.
“Davies’ rulings were not ignored around the country, and Dahlen’s decision should not be ignored around the school district,” Stremick continues. “Superintendent Schatz, I call on you to send Dahlen to Davies High, paint can in hand, to cover up the Davies mural, or at least the portion depicting young men who signed up for military service, rifles in hand, standing in front of a large American flag.”
Stremick is being cute, to be sure. He’s also got a point.
If visual representations of guns in school are enough to violate the school’s “safe space”, not to mention a supposed violation of federal firearms laws, then surely this mural has to go?
Or maybe school officials could just come to their senses and realize that a picture of a young man with a gun is a threat to exactly nobody.