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International Falls girls basketball players suspended after locker room photos posted on Facebook

Sophie Frederickson (left) and Reva Renollet pose with Chad the giraffe. A photo the two took with Chad in Falls High School girls locker room garnered each a one-game suspension, because they violated a school policy banning locker room photos. The students had to destroy the original photo. (Photo courtesy Sophie Frederickson)

A photograph of three high school basketball players from International Falls posing in team gear with a stuffed giraffe named Chad resulted in a one-game suspension for the players in mid-January.

The offense: The picture was taken inside the girls' locker room and posted to Facebook.

The three girls were among about 20 with ties to the high school's sports teams who were given suspensions for using a camera inside the Falls High School locker room, according to some of the students' parents.

Some of the female student athletes were asked to fill out a questionnaire about whether they were involved with photographs taken within the locker room.

Those who had were given a one-game suspension. If the students said they weren't involved and administrators later found out that they had lied, the students were threatened with suspension of up to nine weeks.

"They started a witch hunt and targeted these female athletes," said Tami Renollet, whose daughter, Reva Renollet, had to sit out a varsity basketball game. "No males or anyone who is not an athlete. It seems ridiculous to me. It could have been handled in a positive way. They could have had an assembly to talk about the dangers of pictures."

Renollet said the administration's photo sweep came after a student posted a locker room photograph on Facebook that included a half-dressed student in the background. The parents of that student complained to the school's administration.

Calls to Superintendent Jeff Peura and Kevin Grover, the dean of students, were not returned. Athletic director Don Rolando said he couldn't comment.

Tami Renollet said there have been signs posted that say you cannot bring phones or cameras inside of the locker room, but that hadn't been enforced until now. And there is nothing in the student handbook or on the Minnesota State High School League's website suggesting a punishment for this particular infraction.

Kelly Gordon's daughter Sydney, a senior hockey player, was suspended one game for a photograph of her with some friends making a silly face -- inside the locker room. She wasn't upset her daughter got in trouble, but she questioned the enforcement of the sign outside the locker room door.

"They didn't know they were doing anything wrong," she said.

Gordon compared it to MSHSL rules for athletes caught drinking, where the punishment is established.

"If you get caught partying, you know you're going to get two games," she said.

Jenny Dougherty, whose daughter, Sophie Fredrickson, was in the photo with Chad the giraffe, said administrators and teachers knew there were cell phones in the locker rooms and that the girls were used as an example when they decided to enforce the rule.

"I think sometimes life isn't fair," Dougherty said. "It's maybe a good lesson. For my daughter, I said 'Take your one day suspension and move on. You're not going to get out of your one-day suspension.' The administration probably could have handled it better."

The Duluth News Tribune and The Forum are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.