Broken Bow is a small rural town of 3,500 in central Nebraska drawing national attention after the school board voted 6-0 on Monday to allow seniors interested in shooting sports to pose with their weapons for their senior pictures in the school yearbook.
Hunting and skeet are popular in the area and many of the students in the annual graduating class of 50 to 60 students take part in these sports leading to a request by some parents that their children be allowed to pose for their senior portraits with their guns and trophies from their chosen sport.
Superintendent Mark Sievering explained:
“The board I believe felt they wanted to give students who are involved in those kinds of things the opportunity to take a senior picture with their hobby, with their sport, just like anybody with any other hobby or sport.”
The district had no previous policy governing such photos but in the past has generally prohibited them in deference to concerns about violence and school shootings but a district official said that several other schools in the state were contacted to ask about their policies on such photos and that it was found that about half of them allowed them.
The new policy states that students may pose with objects that show their accomplishments and interests including hunting, other shooting and outdoor sporting pursuits.
The policy also states that if the item being posed with is a weapon such as a gun or knife the gun must not be loaded and no weapons should be brandished or pointed at the camera.
Of course the policy also states the photo must be “tasteful and appropriate” citing as an example that a student “should not submit a photograph of game shot by the student if the animal is in obvious distress.”
School board member Matthew Haumont who is also a Nebraska hunter safety instructor and life-long hunter said that he wants to make certain that all the photos are respectful and not offensive.
“So we’re going to have to take these as a case-by-case basis,” he said. “But I think that goes with any photo, whether it’s a scantily clad girl or something like that.”
“For me as a sportsman,” Haumont said, “I think the policy’s important because it allows those kids who are doing those things a chance to demonstrate what they’re doing and to celebrate that. I think that’s important and fair in our country.”
Photographer Brian Baer of Kearney says that his studio takes senior pictures for schools from a 100 mile radius and that he has photographed many seniors with guns adding that he knows of no school that bans guns in senior pictures. Most such photos are taken outside, he said but he does allow the students to bring guns to his studio where he checks them to make sure they are not loaded.
He said that the kids who do bring guns show a “very healthy respect” for them.