School action with hunter creates controversy

In my Friday, Jan. 6 blog, I wrote about a 9-year-old girl in northeast Ohio who coped with some ridicule for wearing a sweatshirt to school displaying a downed deer that she had shot during the youth season.

Since that time, the story has gone viral and the vitriol online has risen to an unhealthy place both for the school and the child.

The school district in question, Highland Local Schools in Medina County, disputes some of the allegations that were laid out in the original column.

What the girl’s mother said happened is that the girl was shamed by a teacher for wearing said sweatshirt. District officials say the word “shaming” takes it too far in what the teacher actually did. They say the 9-year-old girl was taken out of class and asked if she had another shirt to wear because some of the kids in the classroom were upset by it, according to district officials.

“Approximately six weeks ago (on Nov. 21), several children expressed concern to their teacher over the image on a shirt worn by a classmate,” the district said in a short statement on the incident. “The teacher then took the student into the hallway and quietly asked her to take the shirt off. The student complied.”

The girl’s mother said she was never issued an apology from the school district, but district officials say that is not the case.

“Following a phone call from the student’s mother, an apology was issued almost immediately to the student and the family by the teacher, principal, and superintendent,” the district said in its statement.

School district officials say they thought the matter was a closed case until the recent developments. The conversation between student and teacher was brief, they said.

“While the (school district) respects the rich tradition of hunting that so many  of our students and families share, we are also aware that not every family hunts and not all children have been exposed to those types of images,” the district said in its statement.

Here’s my original column as it appeared online and in the Jan. 6 print edition of Ohio Outdoor News:

AN INCIDENT OF HUNTER SHAMING RECENTLY CAME ACROSS MY DESK, and this situation is really beyond the pale.

Let me lay it out for you: A 9-year-old girl from northeast Ohio, Domonique Yatsko, was lucky enough on the youth weekend to harvest a really nice buck.

She tagged the deer where it lay and checked all the boxes to make it a legal kill.

It was her first deer. Now, the family has a tradition that when one of its members takes his or her first deer, they celebrate the occasion, as well they should. In this case, that included getting a sweatshirt made with Domonique’s photo on it with the cleaned-up buck. No blood, no nothing to offend the senses, so to speak.

This is where the story takes a turn: Domonique proudly wore her sweatshirt to school soon after and was told by her teacher that “killing animals is not what we do.” Shaming, in other words. The way her mother tells it, Domonique was so shamed by the teacher and ridiculed by others in the school that she threw the sweatshirt in the trash as soon as she came home.

“We’re a farming family, and (ancestors) have lived in this area since 1827,” said Domonique’s mother, Heidi. “So, she’s used to raising livestock, planting crops, and planting fields for wildlife as well as hunting.”

Heidi took up the matter with school officials, hoping to get an apology for a perfectly legal activity enjoyed by thousands of Ohioans. Nothing more. One was not forthcoming, however.

“The principal’s quote to me was ‘we don’t have dead animals in school,’” Heidi said. “So, I asked her what they serve in the cafeteria?”

It is not lost on me that Domonique shot her deer on Nov. 20 – during the statewide youth season that is specifically geared by the DNR Division of Wildlife for just this sort of activity.

“She scouted the deer,” Heidi said. “She didn’t just shoot the first thing she saw. She practiced. She did everything right.”

Heidi and her kin all grew up as hunters, and weren’t afforded the opportunity of a special youth season tailored just for that purpose.

“There’s so many good opportunities out there now,” Heidi said. “We do the whitetail dinners for the youths, and she’s been involved in all of that.”

This was Domonique’s first year of hunting, and hopefully not her last. Shame on the adults in this situation for being so unenlightened. But, it’s just a reminder of a battle that we all face daily from the opposition that would love to put us all out of business.

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