North Dakota School's Rejection of Teen's Rifle Yearbook Photo Stokes Controversy

The teen said he built the rifle himself.

ByABC News
December 11, 2015, 6:43 PM

— -- A yearbook photo is stirring up controversy in Fargo, North Dakota, after a local school rejected a student's picture because it showed a gun.

Josh Renville, 18, a senior at Fargo North High School, decided to feature his favorite rifle in his last yearbook photo. Renville said he built the rifle himself, and said he uses it for target practice and hunting.

"The whole point of it is to capture who you are as a person," Josh told ABC News today, noting that he didn't think the photo would cause controversy. "I love my country and I love the Second Amendment, so I thought the photos captured that."

After he submitted the photo, which shows the teen clad in an American flag shirt and carrying the firearm next to a flag, the school deemed the photo "inappropriate."

Principal Andy Dahlen told ABC News that the photo was not only unfit for the yearbook, but that it also violated school policies that ban weapons from school property and school media.

"It surely isn’t the flag," Dahlen said of the photo. "It’s the gun that’s there. ... It’s really trying to emphasize the idea that the school is a safe zone."

The photo in question was not taken on school property, Renville said, noting that he felt "politically harassed."

His father, Charlie Renville, said the family would contest the school's decision. People who know his son understand the photo, he told ABC News.

"I look at it as an issue of free speech -- it’s a free country," Charlie Renville told ABC News, saying that his son's photo is no different than photos of soldiers in the library. "We’re hoping the school sort of uses a little common sense and realizes that this is a picture. ... I’d rather that these public officials support the Bill of Rights and believe in our constitution."

The issue is now with the Fargo School District superintendent, who did not reply to ABC News' requests for comments on the case.

School officials and the Renvilles have received messages both supporting and opposing their stance on the issue. Dahlen said the school received about 50 calls today alone.