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McFeely: Dad of gun-toting student whose yearbook photo denied wants principal fired

FARGO - Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen made a reasonable decision that for most of human history might've been a quiet controversy in a small midwestern city, known by a handful of parents, teachers and administrators. Maybe it would've come u...

Josh Renville. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville's dad Charlie said of the Fargo North principal. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”
Josh Renville. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville's dad Charlie said of the Fargo North principal. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”
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FARGO – Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen made a reasonable decision that for most of human history might’ve been a quiet controversy in a small midwestern city, known by a handful of parents, teachers and administrators. Maybe it would’ve come up at a school board meeting. Maybe it would’ve made the local newspaper. Likely it would’ve been no big deal. Sidebar: Guns In yearbook photos are not unheard of in some areas Read more of Mike McFeely's columns here Human history, as we’ve known it for eons, ended in 2006. That’s when Facebook became available to the general public. And that’s when any hope of having a sensible discussion about a reasonable decision to reach a rational agreement went the route of the pterodactyl. Now Dahlen’s decision has sparked Facebook Outrage, egged on by an angry parent who wants Dahlen fired because the principal won’t allow a photo in the school yearbook that depicts the parent’s son holding an assault-style weapon.
The angry parent, Charlie Renville, talked with Dahlen about the photo ban and came away unsatisfied. So he took to Facebook and torched the principal with personal attacks, saying Dahlen is “morally bankrupt” and is “a far left progressive who is using his position to promote his political agenda and push it on our children.” Renville cited no evidence on which these accusations might’ve been based.“He seems to have absolute power at Fargo North High school, and tries to bully teachers, students and families that disagree with him! Enough is enough he needs to be fired!” Renville wrote.Messages sent to Renville through (you guessed it) Facebook and his cellphone were not returned.As of Wednesday evening, Renville’s post, which included the photo of his son Josh Renville, had been shared almost 1,000 times and the story made its way into local and regional media. It’s a story that is juicy enough that it’ll become a national talker of some measure.The story is this:Josh Renville, a senior, submitted a photo of himself to the yearbook holding an assault-type rifle while standing near an American flag. He is wearing a shirt that depicts the U.S. flag. The yearbook adviser, after seeing the weapon, asked Dahlen whether the photo was allowed in the yearbook. The principal reviewed school policy and decided the picture was not allowable under three provisions.One bans the carrying of weapons on school property; another prohibits publishing of materials in school-sponsored media “that violates federal or state law, promotes violence, terrorism, or other illegal activity …”; and a third bans clothing that advertises or promotes weapons.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2192977","attributes":{"alt":"Fargo North senior Josh Renville.","class":"media-image","height":"480","style":"font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 20.0063px;","title":"Fargo North senior Josh Renville.","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"329"}}]]While acknowledging none of the policies specifically prohibits photos of weapons from appearing in the yearbook, Dahlen said “it’s the combination of those three policies that we’ve interpreted prevent it.”“You can play devil’s advocate all you want, but if you can’t have it in school, why would we publish it in our media?” Dahlen said.Dahlen said he talked with Charlie Renville and explained his decision, with which Renville clearly didn’t agree and vehemently didn’t like. Dahlen and Renville will meet Thursday with Fargo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz to discuss the issue further.“I don’t know if that meeting will change anything. I think it’s a difference of opinion. I’m respectful, but I think we will differ in opinion,” Dahlen said.This is not good enough for Renville, who reiterated on 970 WDAY’s “Jay Thomas Show” that he wants Dahlen fired.“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville said. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”This would seem to indicate this is about much more than just a yearbook photo, that there’s a history here and Renville is out to exact revenge.The truth is, the school publishes the yearbook and has full control over what goes in its pages. That’s just the way it is. Dahlen is citing policy as a way of backing his decision, which is smart, but he doesn’t really have to. As principal, he is essentially the editor of the yearbook. There is no obligation to print anything he or the yearbook staff deems inappropriate. The same rule applies for any newspaper, magazine or online publication. Nobody has to publish anything they feel is inappropriate. And it’s an editor’s discretion as to what’s unacceptable. Sorry.But this is a Pitchfork Nation in which we live (a term coined by a Twin Cities talk-radio host), where people who feel they’ve been wronged can turn to social media and get like-minded people stirred up into a good frenzy of Facebook Outrage. And when that happens, by goodness, somebody has to pay. Renville might have elicited sympathy from a larger base of people had he simply tried to spark a discussion about what is appropriate for a high school yearbook photo. Instead, he turned his Facebook rant into a semi-manifesto about Dahlen’s alleged grudge against his family, the Second Amendment, free speech, love of country and how this “begins the fight for freedom.”Is it about getting your kid’s preferred photo in the yearbook or saving the world?There is this question, too: Would those barking loudest about Josh Renville’s rights being infringed be barking as loud if the photo in question showed a young person holding a handgun while flashing gang signs? Rights are rights, right?There might be an unintended consequence of this brief kerfuffle. As is often the case when there seems to be a shade of gray in the rules, that area could be made black and white.“We’ll probably revise the policy and make it more explicit with what is allowed and what is not allowed,” Dahlen said.Facebook Outrage is sure to go off the charts when that happens. Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 235-7311. He can be heard weekdays 8:30-11 a.m. on 970 WDAY-AMFARGO – Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen made a reasonable decision that for most of human history might’ve been a quiet controversy in a small midwestern city, known by a handful of parents, teachers and administrators. Maybe it would’ve come up at a school board meeting. Maybe it would’ve made the local newspaper. Likely it would’ve been no big deal. Sidebar: Guns In yearbook photos are not unheard of in some areas Read more of Mike McFeely's columns here Human history, as we’ve known it for eons, ended in 2006. That’s when Facebook became available to the general public. And that’s when any hope of having a sensible discussion about a reasonable decision to reach a rational agreement went the route of the pterodactyl. Now Dahlen’s decision has sparked Facebook Outrage, egged on by an angry parent who wants Dahlen fired because the principal won’t allow a photo in the school yearbook that depicts the parent’s son holding an assault-style weapon.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2192297","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"233","style":"font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"349"}}]]The angry parent, Charlie Renville, talked with Dahlen about the photo ban and came away unsatisfied. So he took to Facebook and torched the principal with personal attacks, saying Dahlen is “morally bankrupt” and is “a far left progressive who is using his position to promote his political agenda and push it on our children.” Renville cited no evidence on which these accusations might’ve been based.“He seems to have absolute power at Fargo North High school, and tries to bully teachers, students and families that disagree with him! Enough is enough he needs to be fired!” Renville wrote.Messages sent to Renville through (you guessed it) Facebook and his cellphone were not returned.As of Wednesday evening, Renville’s post, which included the photo of his son Josh Renville, had been shared almost 1,000 times and the story made its way into local and regional media. It’s a story that is juicy enough that it’ll become a national talker of some measure.The story is this:Josh Renville, a senior, submitted a photo of himself to the yearbook holding an assault-type rifle while standing near an American flag. He is wearing a shirt that depicts the U.S. flag. The yearbook adviser, after seeing the weapon, asked Dahlen whether the photo was allowed in the yearbook. The principal reviewed school policy and decided the picture was not allowable under three provisions.One bans the carrying of weapons on school property; another prohibits publishing of materials in school-sponsored media “that violates federal or state law, promotes violence, terrorism, or other illegal activity …”; and a third bans clothing that advertises or promotes weapons.
While acknowledging none of the policies specifically prohibits photos of weapons from appearing in the yearbook, Dahlen said “it’s the combination of those three policies that we’ve interpreted prevent it.”“You can play devil’s advocate all you want, but if you can’t have it in school, why would we publish it in our media?” Dahlen said.Dahlen said he talked with Charlie Renville and explained his decision, with which Renville clearly didn’t agree and vehemently didn’t like. Dahlen and Renville will meet Thursday with Fargo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz to discuss the issue further.“I don’t know if that meeting will change anything. I think it’s a difference of opinion. I’m respectful, but I think we will differ in opinion,” Dahlen said.This is not good enough for Renville, who reiterated on 970 WDAY’s “Jay Thomas Show” that he wants Dahlen fired.“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville said. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”This would seem to indicate this is about much more than just a yearbook photo, that there’s a history here and Renville is out to exact revenge.The truth is, the school publishes the yearbook and has full control over what goes in its pages. That’s just the way it is. Dahlen is citing policy as a way of backing his decision, which is smart, but he doesn’t really have to. As principal, he is essentially the editor of the yearbook. There is no obligation to print anything he or the yearbook staff deems inappropriate. The same rule applies for any newspaper, magazine or online publication. Nobody has to publish anything they feel is inappropriate. And it’s an editor’s discretion as to what’s unacceptable. Sorry.But this is a Pitchfork Nation in which we live (a term coined by a Twin Cities talk-radio host), where people who feel they’ve been wronged can turn to social media and get like-minded people stirred up into a good frenzy of Facebook Outrage. And when that happens, by goodness, somebody has to pay. Renville might have elicited sympathy from a larger base of people had he simply tried to spark a discussion about what is appropriate for a high school yearbook photo. Instead, he turned his Facebook rant into a semi-manifesto about Dahlen’s alleged grudge against his family, the Second Amendment, free speech, love of country and how this “begins the fight for freedom.”Is it about getting your kid’s preferred photo in the yearbook or saving the world?There is this question, too: Would those barking loudest about Josh Renville’s rights being infringed be barking as loud if the photo in question showed a young person holding a handgun while flashing gang signs? Rights are rights, right?There might be an unintended consequence of this brief kerfuffle. As is often the case when there seems to be a shade of gray in the rules, that area could be made black and white.“We’ll probably revise the policy and make it more explicit with what is allowed and what is not allowed,” Dahlen said.Facebook Outrage is sure to go off the charts when that happens. Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 235-7311. He can be heard weekdays 8:30-11 a.m. on 970 WDAY-AMFARGO – Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen made a reasonable decision that for most of human history might’ve been a quiet controversy in a small midwestern city, known by a handful of parents, teachers and administrators. Maybe it would’ve come up at a school board meeting. Maybe it would’ve made the local newspaper. Likely it would’ve been no big deal.Sidebar: Guns In yearbook photos are not unheard of in some areasRead more of Mike McFeely's columns hereHuman history, as we’ve known it for eons, ended in 2006. That’s when Facebook became available to the general public. And that’s when any hope of having a sensible discussion about a reasonable decision to reach a rational agreement went the route of the pterodactyl.Now Dahlen’s decision has sparked Facebook Outrage, egged on by an angry parent who wants Dahlen fired because the principal won’t allow a photo in the school yearbook that depicts the parent’s son holding an assault-style weapon.
The angry parent, Charlie Renville, talked with Dahlen about the photo ban and came away unsatisfied. So he took to Facebook and torched the principal with personal attacks, saying Dahlen is “morally bankrupt” and is “a far left progressive who is using his position to promote his political agenda and push it on our children.” Renville cited no evidence on which these accusations might’ve been based.“He seems to have absolute power at Fargo North High school, and tries to bully teachers, students and families that disagree with him! Enough is enough he needs to be fired!” Renville wrote.Messages sent to Renville through (you guessed it) Facebook and his cellphone were not returned.As of Wednesday evening, Renville’s post, which included the photo of his son Josh Renville, had been shared almost 1,000 times and the story made its way into local and regional media. It’s a story that is juicy enough that it’ll become a national talker of some measure.The story is this:Josh Renville, a senior, submitted a photo of himself to the yearbook holding an assault-type rifle while standing near an American flag. He is wearing a shirt that depicts the U.S. flag. The yearbook adviser, after seeing the weapon, asked Dahlen whether the photo was allowed in the yearbook. The principal reviewed school policy and decided the picture was not allowable under three provisions.One bans the carrying of weapons on school property; another prohibits publishing of materials in school-sponsored media “that violates federal or state law, promotes violence, terrorism, or other illegal activity …”; and a third bans clothing that advertises or promotes weapons.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2192977","attributes":{"alt":"Fargo North senior Josh Renville.","class":"media-image","height":"480","style":"font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 20.0063px;","title":"Fargo North senior Josh Renville.","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"329"}}]]While acknowledging none of the policies specifically prohibits photos of weapons from appearing in the yearbook, Dahlen said “it’s the combination of those three policies that we’ve interpreted prevent it.”“You can play devil’s advocate all you want, but if you can’t have it in school, why would we publish it in our media?” Dahlen said.Dahlen said he talked with Charlie Renville and explained his decision, with which Renville clearly didn’t agree and vehemently didn’t like. Dahlen and Renville will meet Thursday with Fargo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz to discuss the issue further.“I don’t know if that meeting will change anything. I think it’s a difference of opinion. I’m respectful, but I think we will differ in opinion,” Dahlen said.This is not good enough for Renville, who reiterated on 970 WDAY’s “Jay Thomas Show” that he wants Dahlen fired.“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville said. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”This would seem to indicate this is about much more than just a yearbook photo, that there’s a history here and Renville is out to exact revenge.The truth is, the school publishes the yearbook and has full control over what goes in its pages. That’s just the way it is. Dahlen is citing policy as a way of backing his decision, which is smart, but he doesn’t really have to. As principal, he is essentially the editor of the yearbook. There is no obligation to print anything he or the yearbook staff deems inappropriate. The same rule applies for any newspaper, magazine or online publication. Nobody has to publish anything they feel is inappropriate. And it’s an editor’s discretion as to what’s unacceptable. Sorry.But this is a Pitchfork Nation in which we live (a term coined by a Twin Cities talk-radio host), where people who feel they’ve been wronged can turn to social media and get like-minded people stirred up into a good frenzy of Facebook Outrage. And when that happens, by goodness, somebody has to pay. Renville might have elicited sympathy from a larger base of people had he simply tried to spark a discussion about what is appropriate for a high school yearbook photo. Instead, he turned his Facebook rant into a semi-manifesto about Dahlen’s alleged grudge against his family, the Second Amendment, free speech, love of country and how this “begins the fight for freedom.”Is it about getting your kid’s preferred photo in the yearbook or saving the world?There is this question, too: Would those barking loudest about Josh Renville’s rights being infringed be barking as loud if the photo in question showed a young person holding a handgun while flashing gang signs? Rights are rights, right?There might be an unintended consequence of this brief kerfuffle. As is often the case when there seems to be a shade of gray in the rules, that area could be made black and white.“We’ll probably revise the policy and make it more explicit with what is allowed and what is not allowed,” Dahlen said.Facebook Outrage is sure to go off the charts when that happens.Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 235-7311. He can be heard weekdays 8:30-11 a.m. on 970 WDAY-AMFARGO – Fargo North Principal Andy Dahlen made a reasonable decision that for most of human history might’ve been a quiet controversy in a small midwestern city, known by a handful of parents, teachers and administrators. Maybe it would’ve come up at a school board meeting. Maybe it would’ve made the local newspaper. Likely it would’ve been no big deal.Sidebar: Guns In yearbook photos are not unheard of in some areasRead more of Mike McFeely's columns hereHuman history, as we’ve known it for eons, ended in 2006. That’s when Facebook became available to the general public. And that’s when any hope of having a sensible discussion about a reasonable decision to reach a rational agreement went the route of the pterodactyl.Now Dahlen’s decision has sparked Facebook Outrage, egged on by an angry parent who wants Dahlen fired because the principal won’t allow a photo in the school yearbook that depicts the parent’s son holding an assault-style weapon.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2192297","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"233","style":"font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"349"}}]]The angry parent, Charlie Renville, talked with Dahlen about the photo ban and came away unsatisfied. So he took to Facebook and torched the principal with personal attacks, saying Dahlen is “morally bankrupt” and is “a far left progressive who is using his position to promote his political agenda and push it on our children.” Renville cited no evidence on which these accusations might’ve been based.“He seems to have absolute power at Fargo North High school, and tries to bully teachers, students and families that disagree with him! Enough is enough he needs to be fired!” Renville wrote.Messages sent to Renville through (you guessed it) Facebook and his cellphone were not returned.As of Wednesday evening, Renville’s post, which included the photo of his son Josh Renville, had been shared almost 1,000 times and the story made its way into local and regional media. It’s a story that is juicy enough that it’ll become a national talker of some measure.The story is this:Josh Renville, a senior, submitted a photo of himself to the yearbook holding an assault-type rifle while standing near an American flag. He is wearing a shirt that depicts the U.S. flag. The yearbook adviser, after seeing the weapon, asked Dahlen whether the photo was allowed in the yearbook. The principal reviewed school policy and decided the picture was not allowable under three provisions.One bans the carrying of weapons on school property; another prohibits publishing of materials in school-sponsored media “that violates federal or state law, promotes violence, terrorism, or other illegal activity …”; and a third bans clothing that advertises or promotes weapons.
While acknowledging none of the policies specifically prohibits photos of weapons from appearing in the yearbook, Dahlen said “it’s the combination of those three policies that we’ve interpreted prevent it.”“You can play devil’s advocate all you want, but if you can’t have it in school, why would we publish it in our media?” Dahlen said.Dahlen said he talked with Charlie Renville and explained his decision, with which Renville clearly didn’t agree and vehemently didn’t like. Dahlen and Renville will meet Thursday with Fargo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz to discuss the issue further.“I don’t know if that meeting will change anything. I think it’s a difference of opinion. I’m respectful, but I think we will differ in opinion,” Dahlen said.This is not good enough for Renville, who reiterated on 970 WDAY’s “Jay Thomas Show” that he wants Dahlen fired.“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Renville said. “He’s been picking on my family for years for our political and religious beliefs.”This would seem to indicate this is about much more than just a yearbook photo, that there’s a history here and Renville is out to exact revenge.The truth is, the school publishes the yearbook and has full control over what goes in its pages. That’s just the way it is. Dahlen is citing policy as a way of backing his decision, which is smart, but he doesn’t really have to. As principal, he is essentially the editor of the yearbook. There is no obligation to print anything he or the yearbook staff deems inappropriate. The same rule applies for any newspaper, magazine or online publication. Nobody has to publish anything they feel is inappropriate. And it’s an editor’s discretion as to what’s unacceptable. Sorry.But this is a Pitchfork Nation in which we live (a term coined by a Twin Cities talk-radio host), where people who feel they’ve been wronged can turn to social media and get like-minded people stirred up into a good frenzy of Facebook Outrage. And when that happens, by goodness, somebody has to pay. Renville might have elicited sympathy from a larger base of people had he simply tried to spark a discussion about what is appropriate for a high school yearbook photo. Instead, he turned his Facebook rant into a semi-manifesto about Dahlen’s alleged grudge against his family, the Second Amendment, free speech, love of country and how this “begins the fight for freedom.”Is it about getting your kid’s preferred photo in the yearbook or saving the world?There is this question, too: Would those barking loudest about Josh Renville’s rights being infringed be barking as loud if the photo in question showed a young person holding a handgun while flashing gang signs? Rights are rights, right?There might be an unintended consequence of this brief kerfuffle. As is often the case when there seems to be a shade of gray in the rules, that area could be made black and white.“We’ll probably revise the policy and make it more explicit with what is allowed and what is not allowed,” Dahlen said.Facebook Outrage is sure to go off the charts when that happens.Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 235-7311. He can be heard weekdays 8:30-11 a.m. on 970 WDAY-AM

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