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Forum editorial: Uphold rejection of yearbook photo

The Fargo School Board should endorse a principal's ruling that a proposed yearbook photograph of a gun-toting student is inappropriate for the publication. Fargo North High School Principal Andy Dahlen's decision to reject the photo has been uph...

The Fargo School Board should endorse a principal’s ruling that a proposed yearbook photograph of a gun-toting student is inappropriate for the publication. Fargo North High School Principal Andy Dahlen’s decision to reject the photo has been upheld by school district administrators. The student and his parents can appeal to the board, and indications are they will. If they follow through, the board should underscore the authority of Dahlen, who is acting as a publisher, and the conclusions of yearbook editors to maintain standards for what does and what does not pass muster for the yearbook.
The photo shows the student decked out in red, white and blue, and displaying a semi-automatic rifle. It’s supposed to be representative of his interests and also to underscore his patriotism. His interest in guns certainly is clear. But on the patriotism factor, the photo fails.
Real patriotism is dignified and quiet, not look-at-me ostentatious. Real patriotism is about doing, not showing. Real patriotism does not require the shallow affirmation of bumper stickers, sloganeering, or in-your-face photos.
But all that aside, the school has the responsibility to promulgate standards for student publications. Nothing new about it. The offending photo crosses a line that any thoughtful observer can see. It’s not about freedom of speech or, as the student’s father said, “God-given rights.” It’s about community standards as reflected in a public school. It’s about an image that fails to communicate the message intended and is a clear affront to long-standing school rules about weapons.
Dahlen’s initial decision was right. It was based on common-sense policy. The school board should not bend.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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