BIG LAKE, Minn. - A change in district policy means a team photo of the Big Lake High School trap shooting team will be included in the yearbook after all.
Big Lake Public Schools Superintendent Steve Westerberg made the announcement Thursday afternoon, following a flap that made quite a splash in the community and across social media. Westerberg said that the school yearbook policy was amended, with an exception for the ban on guns in photos granted specifically to the trap shooting team.
"This has spun into an amazing issue when it really shouldn't have been," said Westerberg.
The ruckus began when Big Lake High School trapshooting coach Rhonda Eckerdt says she learned Wednesday from the school's athletic director that the team picture wouldn't be included in the yearbook because it was against school policy to show firearms in photos.
Team members, coaches and parents maintained the guns should be viewed as a piece of equipment used in the sport, much like a baseball player holding a bat in a photo, or a hockey player holding a stick.
The story took off on social media, with many posts and comments shaming the Big Lake School District for the decision. So, did all of the social media pressure have anything to do with the decision to amend the policy?
"You know, I really think the administration would've resolved this anyway, but certainly there's been a lot of pressure and one would think that - but, let's say 3 or 4 months ago, a request would've been made, process would've been followed, I think we would end up in the same spot," said Westerberg.
In a press release Superintendent Westerberg said that a group needs to file a request to change an official handbook policy with the district before something can be changed. Once the procedure was followed, he says the district was able to amend the policy quickly so the picture of the trap shooting team with their weapons could be included in the yearbook.
"It is important to remember that a school district has rules and procedures that need to be followed," the release stated. "The intense conversation around this topic on social media and the phone calls and emails we received, only delayed the process."
The policy now reads:
All photos, written text, and artwork must conform to school policies and are subject to approval by the yearbook advisor and/or administration. Photos and artwork that violate school policy, display firearms, weapons, drugs, alcohol inappropriate gestures or poses, and revealing or obscene clothing may be edited or excluded without permission or notification. Exception given to our school-sponsored trap shooting team which will be allowed to have team pictures in the yearbook, team poster displayed in the school, and any approved photos taken by yearbook staff. These photos would include their firearms.