NY student wins fight to have portrait with rifle in yearbook

WTEN Rifle Yearbook Photo

BROADALBIN-PERTH, N.Y. (WTEN) – A New York student won her appeal to include a picture with a rifle as her senior portrait in the yearbook.

High school senior Rebekah Rorick took a senior picture that included her two great loves – her dog and her favorite hobby of hunting.

“My family has always hunted,” she said. “It’s something I do with my family, and my dog is my best friend. So I decided to put her in the photo. I fell in love with [the picture]. It’s my favorite photo of all time right now.”

But Rorick held a rifle in her left hand in the image. As a result, the photo was refused by the Broadalbin-Perth High School yearbook committee.

“And I was like, ‘Why?’ And they are like, ‘Because there’s a gun in it.’ And I’m like, ‘But it’s a hunting rifle. I’m wearing camo. I have my dog with me,’” Rorick explained. “I was ready to cry. I didn’t know what I was going to do. The only thing I thought to do was address it.”

Rorick and her dad took her case to the Board of Education Monday night and argued the portrait was no different than many other senior portraits because it highlighted student interests. They also presented a 2012 yearbook photo of a past senior holding a rifle with a deer.

“I think the yearbook staff’s opinion was that that could be seen as a weapon,” Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said it was the first time he’d heard about the photo, and his first chance to look at it.

“We do have a policy against weapons, but at first glance, and even now, I do not believe that this is,” he said. “She is not holding the gun in a malicious manner. She is not pointing it anywhere. It’s to me, in my opinion, a nice photograph of a young lady in the Adirondack region that enjoys hunting.”

In the end, Rorick and her father won their fight, and the portrait will appear in the yearbook.

“I was so happy. I could not stop smiling,” she said. “I felt the board had a lot of courage. It’s something I’ll hold forever.”

Tomlinson said this case may open the door to new challenges when it comes to how students express themselves; however, he said it feels important to deal with each one on a case-by-case basis.

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