A Guilderland High School yearbook photo featuring a student posed with a firearm and dead giraffe has generated a mixed response from students and social media users.
The photo, believed to be taken on a family trip, appears in the ad section of the yearbook, where parents can pay to submit photos of their children along with a message.
A portion of the caption below the photo reads, “A hunt based only on the trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be. If you don’t go after what you want you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask the answer is always no.”
The negative feedback on social media shows that some individuals blame both the Guilderland Central School District and the parents who submitted the photo.
“Many eyes saw this ad before it went to print,” wrote Cody McEneny Ingraham on Facebook. “There was no oversight. What disgusts me even more is the Guilderland Central School District’s lack of ability to take responisibility for their own mistakes.”
According to Marie Wiles, Guilderland superintendent of schools, the yearbook is screened by student editors and faculty members.
Wiles said the school plans to increase the scrutiny of the review process. “What we have talked about is getting one more layer of review,” she said. “Another set of eyes.”
The district maintains that publishing the photo was a mistake and not intended to produce a reaction.
“I think in retrospect we would not have included it, but at the time I don’t believe anyone anticipated the controversy,” Wiles said. “I wholeheartedly believe no one wanted to offend anyone.”
Others defended the family’s choice to submit the picture. On Facebook, Theresa Pollack wrote, “Please consider that you are talking about a kid and his loving family, who are proud of his accomplishments and wanted to celebrate a huge milestone in his life. There was no intent to cause harm there or to offend anyone.”
The story has garnered local and national recognition from websites such as Daily Mail Online, Gothamist, Vox, The Daily Dot, The Huffington Post and New York Daily News.
Some Guilderland students on social media appeared to be unfazed by the photo and the media attention. “Who’s the kid that shot a giraffe in the yearbook idk dad … ” Gab Minette wrote on Twitter. “Lol @ the dead giraffe in the yearbook” wrote @HillandMike.
The cirumstances behind the photo are unknown. The Gazette was unable to contact the family that submitted the photo.
Companies in countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe offer trophy hunting trips to tourists. Visitors are taken on safaris and given the opportunity to hunt exotic animals. The excursions can cost thousands of dollars.
Some hunters claim that trophy hunting can actually benefit conservationist efforts by reversing habitat loss, but there is still controversey surrounding the business.
“Yearbooks are meant to celebrate memories, not generate controversy,” said Wiles. “We do apologize that the picture made it into print. This is a learning experience for everyone. We plan to strengthen policies and procedures to make sure it does not happen again.”