HINCKLEY, Ohio – A teacher and administrators at Hinckley Elementary School recently ruined a young girl’s life passion by belittling the 9-year-old for harvesting her first deer – a beautiful eight-point buck.
Domonique Yatsko spend several days last fall scouting deer with family members in preparation for Ohio’s youth hunting weekend, a season designed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources to encourage youngsters to engage in the outdoors and inspire a new generation of hunters.
“She scouted the deer,” Domonique’s mother, Heidi Yatsko, told The Medina Gazette. “She’s gone out many times and saw very nice deer and didn’t take a shot. She waited until she felt the time was right and when it was the right deer.
“She did a very good job and she was very excited,” she said.
The Yatsko family owns more than 200 acres in the Hinckley area, and Domonique was elated to continue a family tradition that dates back to the 1800s.
So when Domonique harvested her first deer on the last day of the youth firearm season in November, with the help of an adult, the family commemorated the experience with a sweatshirt screen-printed with an image of the 9-year-old posing with the massive eight-point buck. The family was careful to clean the deer for the photo, which included no blood – just the beaming youngster holding the beautiful deer by its antlers.
“She was very proud when she took her first deer,” Yatsko said.
That pride, however, turned to shame the next day when Domonique wore the sweatshirt to school.
When the girl got home, she tossed it in the trash, telling her mother she was “yelled at” by her teacher and told the remove the sweatshirt because “killing animals is not what we do,” Yatsko told Outdoor News.
“We’re a farming family, and have lived in this area since 1827,” she said. “So, she’s used to raising livestock, planting crops, and planting fields for wildlife as well as hunting.”
Shocked by the incident, Yatsko contacted school and district officials to discuss the matter and seek an apology, only to face the same type of anti-hunting attitude as her daughter.
“I was looking for an apology for my child, that’s all,” Yatsko told The Gazette.
“The principal’s quote to me was ‘we don’t have dead animals in school,’” Yatsko said, according to OutdoorNews. “So, I asked her what they serve in the cafeteria.”
The mother said Domonique was devastated by the incident.
“I think it hurt her more internally,” she told The Gazette. “The person she grew up to be and the family’s she’s surrounded by was told it’s wrong.”
Officials with Highland Local Schools, of course, disputed the family’s rendition of events.
“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 wrote in a statement to Outdoor News. “The teacher then took the student into the hallway and quietly asked her to take the shirt off. The student complied.”
“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 statement read. “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.”
Yatsko told The Gazette the family is now working to reignite Domonique’s passion for hunting, but it’s been a slow process.
“We have finally gotten her to where she will go back out,” she said. “We’re trying to bring the joy back to go out hunting and be in the tree stand.”