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Blackduck School Board discusses use of guns in yearbook photos

BLACKDUCK -- Blackduck Public School leaders are set to decide next month whether a high schooler’s senior portrait can include a gun.

Antonia Long, 17, has been trap shooting competitively for years, and she asked board members last Monday, Dec. 10, to let her to submit a yearbook photo that shows her posing with a shotgun across her shoulders.

“I realize the fear and concern that people have about there being a firearm in the school’s yearbook, but I’m here to tell you that I am not the concern,” Long said. She showed board members a copy of the photo at their meeting last week.

Each senior class in Blackduck is relatively small, and the school posts photo spreads of each class in the hallways there. Many students pose with cars, motorcycles, footballs, hockey sticks, and other items designed to evoke their personality and hobbies. A handful of those photos include guns.

“It’s no different than posing with a football or baseball bat,” said board member Bob Klug, Jr. “That’s my feeling.”

Other board members pondered only letting members of the school’s trap shooting team pose with a gun.

Blackduck Public School has a zero tolerance weapons policy, Superintendent Mark Lundin said, but it doesn’t seemingly address depictions of them. And the school’s yearbook and halls include photos of the trap team and their guns.

Decisions like those can fall to school administrators, but Lundin said he wanted to consult the School Board.

“I’d like to have the board’s support and the board’s direction on how they’d like me to proceed with this,” Lundin told The American.

The School Board’s discussion Monday was genial, and most members seemed to be in favor of allowing Long to use the photo she suggested. But allowing guns in yearbook photos has been a contentious issue at other Minnesota school districts: last January, Crookston Public Schools banned from the yearbook all photos that include guns, a decision that they quickly amended for the school’s trap team after blowback on social media.

Blackduck’s board is scheduled to discuss -- and presumably make an official decision on -- Long’s photo at its next regular meeting in January.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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