A Nebraska school district changed its policy to allow seniors to pose with guns for their yearbook photos, and the school's superintendent says he's just catching up with the rest of the Midwest.
Students can pose with any type of prop, from rifles to basketballs, as long as what they're wearing meets the school's dress code and the photo is "tasteful and appropriate," according to the new policy introduced this week.
"We are a very rural community right in the center of Nebraska where hunting and other shooting sports are very popular," Broken Bow Public Schools Superintendent Mark Sievering said. "We have something that is known as the One Box Pheasant Hunt that is a hunt attended by people all over the nation."
While hunting is huge, the city of Broken Bow is small. In fact, the district only has one high school, so the new policy doesn't affect many students.
"We're a town of about 3,500 people," Sievering said. "On any given year, we might have 60 to 70 seniors. We're not talking about hundreds of kids or several schools in a district."
Still, when news of the new rule broke in the Omaha World-Herald, Sievering said he got calls from people across the nation who pictured "a fourth-grader coming into school and having their picture taken with a gun."
"That is not what this is about," he said, adding that students take the senior photos off campus. Sievering said he realizes that it could be easy for people who live in other parts of the country, where yearbook photos are taken at school, to "misconstrue" his policy.
There was never a ban on weapons in senior photos at Broken Bow High School, but the district generally didn't allow it, the superintendent said. Last year when a yearbook adviser asked about the policy, Sievering realized there wasn't one, and he and the school board decided hunting was an important hobby to many students, and should be represented in the yearbook if students choose.
"I'm confident that students across the country are already taking photos like this. This is not a new thing," he said.
Photographer Brian Baer said he takes yearbook photos for students throughout the state of Nebraska, including in Broken Bow, and has never heard of anyone banning weapons in photos.
"I've been in business for 20 years doing senior portraits, and this is the first time it's been called to attention," he said. "And I think it was addressed because of some sensitivity of school shootings that are becoming more common across the country, unfortunately."
"When we do senior portraits, we ask our students to consider an activity that they're interested in, that they're passionate about," Baer added. "Sometimes it's dancing, sometimes it's basketball, sometimes hunting is the activity they're interested in."