WISCONSIN — A high school student has submitted a new portrait of himself to the school’s yearbook staff after the principal objected to his original submission, which showed the senior posing with a gun and a Confederate battle flag.
Tyler Schultz, a senior at Pewaukee High School, submitted the first photo for the senior portrait section in October, but the principal did not tell him until seven months later that the photo could not be published unless it was cropped to exclude the gun and flag, according to a June 2 article in the Greater Milwaukee Today.
On May 27, Principal Marty Van Hulle told Schultz the photo had been cropped for a banquet that day where he was to be honored as student of the year for technical education. Yearbook staff members did not appear to be involved in the decision, and the adviser declined to comment on the situation.
Schultz’s mother, Tammy Ankomeus, told the GM Today that that was probably the first time it was brought to the administration’s attention.
“As the yearbook is representative of the school and a publication of Pewaukee High School, it is by its very nature an extension of the school and school district and therefore it is reasonable for us to regulate the message the school sends via our publications,” Superintendent JoAnn Sternke told the GM Today.
She also noted that weapons are not allowed on school grounds.
“Weapons or images of this sort are not something we endorse or condone in the school environment,” she said.
School officials, Schultz and his mother did not respond to requests for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has announced its support of Schultz though he and his family are not planning to pursue legal actions.
“Neither the faculty advisers nor the principal should prohibit the inclusion of material for publication except when such publication would clearly endanger the health or safety of the students or clearly and imminently threaten to disrupt the educational process,” said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.
Schultz and Ankomeus said students were told to pose with objects that reflected their personalities or hobbies.
Schultz has been a trap shooter at the Menomonee Falls Rod and Gun Club for the past three years. He drives a truck with a Confederate battle flag and the words “Country Boy” in the window, Ankomeus told the GM Today.
“This is not about Tyler; Tyler is a great kid,” Sternke said. “This is about what we deem appropriate in school publications.”