Student Opinion: Students react to giraffe controversy


The singular issue causing the most debate in this year’s edition of the Tawasenthan isn’t the size of the sports section vs. the arts section – it’s a senior ad starring a younger graduating senior posing with a recently expired giraffe.

The ad, which also features the student carrying a gun, has generated such controversy that the local news has commented on it, including the Times Union, NY Daily News, and even the Huffington Post. The student featured in the photo has been ruthlessly attacked on many forms of social media, and unfortunately he hasn’t been the only target. The student staff of the yearbook have been criticized for allowing the picture to be published, with Superintendent Marie Wiles referring to the incident as an “oversight.”

Most of the controversy arose from two different aspects of the picture: one being the dead, kneeling giraffe, and the other being the hunting rifle carried by the student. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the population of giraffes in Africa plummeted from 140,000 in 1998 to fewer than 80,000 in 2012, with two sub-species considered endangered.

In an article published by the Times Union on May 29th, Dr. Wiles stated that “In the future, we will take a little bit closer view of how we review that section of the yearbook.” After all, senior ads are usually fairly harmless – baby pictures or something of the like, and aren’t usually scrutinized by the staff.

Most of the articles written on the subject also appear to take the side of the giraffe, calling the photo “disgusting” and “tasteless” and referring to hunters showing off their prey as “nimrods.”

However, all of the blind hate soon led to another level of controversy: a wave of support for the student, his rights, and his family’s sentimental values, with even more students taking to Twitter to express their solidarity with the student and overall tiredness of the entire affair.

Students and teachers with all kinds of opinions are weighing in on social media and during school to express their support, disgust, or (most overwhelmingly) apathy towards the incident.

“I think that a lot of people are overreacting to this,” said senior Kevin Swintek. “You can think what you want about it, but you have to respect other people’s hobbies and what they like to do. Whether or not you like the fact that they’re a hunter–think and say what you want, but be respectful.”

“Who cares? He gave the meat to a tribe,” said Will Moody. Another senior, Mark Fyvie, agrees. “They’re making it way too big of a deal. They put the picture in the yearbook, but he killed it a while ago.”

Some people, however, feel strongly that the photo should not have been allowed, as they feel that the photo represents a violation of animal rights. “I believe that this type of material should not be allowed in a school publication of any kind,” said sophomore Lakota Lustig. “I guess there’s more to it, but I don’t like it. I am a vegetarian, and I guess it just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Most students, however, have defended the student and the yearbook staff. “I don’t think it is wrong at all,” said senior Nick VonDollen. “The business of the yearbook is the business of the school, the students, and the parents. No one else.”

Most of the students at GHS seem to have reached the same, very mature consensus: get over it and move on.


Survey: Cheating among GHS students

To supplement an article in our next issue, The Journal is conducting a survey about cheating by Guilderland students. Please fill out the survey below. All responses are anonymous. The staff of The Journal thank you for your participation.

LGBT students react to Indiana religious freedom law


The feud between the LGBT community and the strict boundaries of religion has been akin to the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets, Apple and Microsoft. The Indiana Religious Freedom Act, recently passed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is doing nothing more than fueling the flames. Although the intended purpose of the law is to apparently protect people’s (namely, business owner’s) freedom to practice and live by the rules of their chosen religion without having to worry about the confines of state or federal law, the use of the law has spiraled into a discriminatory measure against the entire LGBT community. Business owners are allegedly refusing to serve gays, lesbians and transgender people on the basis that it goes against their religion.

Obviously, refusing to serve someone based on their sexual orientation goes against the Constitution. Or does it? Are we supposed to look at the law as protecting freedom of religion, or as discriminating against a certain group of people?

Although the LGBT community has received a lot of positive press in recent years, what with thirty-seven states legalizing gay marriage (including our home state of New York), situations like this seem to stress that their problems are far from over. Even at our own school, LGBT students still experience quiet forms of discrimination.

“I have experienced some discrimination,” says Stephen Perez, an openly gay GHS sophomore. “I’ve been called slurs in the hallways of school, or just out in public.”

While he says that his peers and the majority of students at Guilderland have been very accepting of his sexuality, the student says he still experiences exclusion based on things he can’t change. “I’ve been excluded for my sexuality. In the locker room, a lot of guys will make sure they are far away from me. When we pick partners in class for projects, I’m usually the kid that doesn’t have a partner. A lot of people don’t really want to interact with ‘the gay kid,'” he says. “I don’t know if it’s out of fear or hate.”

As for the Indiana Religious Freedom Act, he believes it is disgusting and discriminatory. “I plan on taking a stand against it any way I can, even if it’s just over social media,” he says. “It’s important for LGBT youths to get their voice heard on important issues that could affect them for many years to come.”

JC, another LGBT sophomore, also believes that the Indiana law is discriminatory. “People do have the freedom to believe what they want, I have nothing against that,” JC said. “But to be able to keep people from jobs and having a peaceful life using your religion as an excuse is ridiculous.” JC is pansexual, meaning JC does not discriminate between gender when determining attraction.

Although JC’s peers are not aware of JC’s sexual orientation, JC did have problems at first coming out to their parents. “My parents didn’t really believe me when I came out to them,” they said. “They thought I was just ‘confused.'” JC remarked that their parents were more understanding now, although the stigma around young teens in the LGBT community might have attributed to JC’s parents’ hesitation.

Proponents of the Indiana Religious Freedom Act say that business owners should not have to serve people who do not agree with their religion. However, a problem with the law is that it furthers the growing divide between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, as long as forcing homosexuals and the like into an almost separated, different community. JC’s peers do not know about JC’s sexuality, nor do they probably care. The question is, is the LGBT community so different from others? Or is Indiana’s new law just trying to make us believe that?

Poll: drug use by GHS students

The Journal is collecting information about drug use among Guilderland High School students for an article in our next issue. All responses are anonymous.

Section II students invited to sit with Red Sea at sectional basketball final


Leaders of the Red Sea have invited students from all Section II schools to join them at the sectional basketball final tonight. Students from across the section are invited to sit with the Red Sea and cheer for the Guilderland Boys Basketball team as they take on Shenedehowa.

According to Kyle Levy, an active member of the Red Sea, the idea was sparked when the Niskyuana student section asked to join the Red Sea via Twitter. Leaders of the sea then “decided that we should invite all Section II students to join us,” says Levy, who adds that Shenendehowa is a major rival for most Section II schools.

Students in the Red Sea hope that inviting students from other schools will result in a huge group of students to supporting the Guilderland team. “We invited them because we want a huge crowd cheering on our school to take down Shen,” says Levy. “It would be incredible if we had the biggest Sea yet and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

The game is at 7:30 at the Times Union Center tonight, Tuesday, March 10.

Upcoming Events at GHS: February 2015


February 7: Guilderland Music Department presents “Pops Falls in Love” – A fundraiser for the Guilderland Music Parents and Friends Association, the concert will feature all of the high school’s music ensembles. Tickets are $7 at the door.

February 23-27: School Spirit Week – Theme days are to be announced.

February 25: Pep Rally – This event will feature Guilderland High School’s clubs, musical groups, athletic teams, and the diverse talents of our student body.

February 27: Annual Dodge ball Tournament – Guilderland students will compete against each other in this fundraiser for the Altamont Food Pantry.

Survey: Free Expression at GHS

In light of the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, The Journal will be publishing a major article on free expression in society and in public schools in our next issue. For the article, we are seeking the opinions and perspectives of GHS students on this issue.

Please respond to the questions below, and comment if you wish to expand on your opinion. Be sure to click the “Vote” button so that your vote is counted! The responses to this survey will be presented in the next issue of The Journal, and any comments may be quoted in the article.

Watch: Guilderland High School Concert Choir rehearses Carmina Burana

On Saturday, January 25, at 3:00 pm at the Palace Theatre, the Guilderland High School Concert Choir will perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana will the Empire State Youth Orchestra and other local high school choirs. Helen Cha-Pyo, Music Director of the Empire State Youth Orchestra, conducts. Tickets are available online at

or at the Palace Theatre box office. Tickets prices are $23 for adults, $13 for seniors, and $8 for students.

Check out this rehearsal footage for a preview of this amazing concert! Video courtesy of Mrs. Rae Jean Teeter, Concert Choir director.

Guilderland High School music ensembles to perform in school concert


The Guilderland High School Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Concert Choir will perform in the annual GHS Winter Concert. These groups are comprised of the finest musicians in Guilderland High School; students must audition to become a member of these ensembles. As a result of their talent and hard work, all of the ensembles have won numerous accolades at NYSSMA festivals and other competitions.

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