A yearbook photo of a senior in high school triggered controversy recently.
An unidentified student at Guilderland High School appeared in the 2015 yearbook with a dead giraffe and a firearm strapped over his shoulder.
“The bottom line is we have no interest or intent to offend anyone,” Guilderland Central School District Superintendent Dr. Marie Wiles told NEWS10 ABC. “The yearbook isn’t a vehicle for controversy; it’s a vehicle for capturing memories. So we deeply regret that there are folks out there who are offended by this.”
Wiles acknowledged that the review process had failed.
“I don’t believe that the folks who reviewed the picture saw the weapon, so had they seen it, I think we would not be having this conversation today,” Wiles said. “But they didn’t see it at the time. We are very sorry that people feel badly about this. I totally understand that.”
The image was placed in a section of the yearbook where parents can buy an ad and include a picture or quote to honor a student. In this case, the photo was accompanied by the remark, "A hunt based only on the trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.”
Students reacted angrily to the picture.
“I can't wear a tank top to school without being hounded because it's 'inappropriate,' yet someone can pose with a dead giraffe in the year book [sic] & that's completely 'appropriate’,” one student wrote on social media, according to Times Union.
“Honestly, I’m appalled,” wrote another. “That’s crazy to have in a school yearbook.”
Guilderland students were not the only ones who were offended.
“Traveling halfway around the world to shoot some of the world’s most magnificent, and exotic animals is shameful,” the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement. “Trophy hunting increases threats to the survival of these species.
"We hope Guilderland High School administrators take this opportunity to educate students on the importance of conserving and respecting African wildlife.”
According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the giraffe population has declined by 40 percent as a result of poaching, habitat loss and overhunting in recent years, Times Union reported.
Wiles promised that in the future, staff would apply stricter controls on what could appear in the yearbook.
“We can learn a lesson from it,” she said. “It’s not a line; it’s a judgment. I think the lesson that we learned here is that before we make decisions on what we publish, we make sure that we’re making good judgments.”