Artifact: Zero tolerance for silly pictures


Credit: Leilani E. Martin Cardoza

Years after the letter jackets and class rings have been put away, adults smile with mild embarrassment at their goofy high school yearbook photos. High school senior Patrick Agin, age 17 and a proud member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, would really have something to smile about if his school agreed to publish this photo.

But that's not going to happen. Principal Robert Littlefield of Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island forbade the yearbook to run it. Why? Because of the school's zero tolerance policy regarding…swords. "Students wielding weapons is just not consistent with our existing policies or the mission of the school," Littlefield told The New York Times. "I think the picture speaks for itself." Littlefield evidently feels that to publish such a photo is to invite a Columbine-style massacre.

Never mind that the school's mascot is a Revolutionary War Minuteman carrying a rifle. "That's an entirely different issue," Littlefield informed the Times. "I don't think anybody could reasonably construe a cartoon depiction of a soldier from 250 years ago as a threat to our educational environment." Just how a photo of a teenaged boy dressed in chain mail with a broadsword slung over his shoulder constitutes "a threat to our educational environment" apparently needs no explanation.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are new developments since this story appeared in <strong>reason</strong>.  Ron Bailey posts an update here