A successful first hunt can be exciting and memorable for all ages, especially youths. However, a Hinckley Township girl’s family says she didn’t receive the positive reaction from her peers that she hoped.
Domonique Yatsko harvested her first deer on the last day of youth deer-gun weekend in November. It was an eight-point buck.
To celebrate, a picture taken of the 9-year-old and the deer was put on a black sweatshirt. Heidi Yatsko told The Gazette on Thursday that her daughter proudly wore the sweatshirt to school the next day.
“She was very proud when she took her first deer,” the mother said.
But when Domonique came home from school, Heidi said, she threw the sweatshirt in the garbage. Domonique told her mother she was “yelled at” by her teacher and told to take off the sweatshirt because “killing animals is not what we do.”
“She was ashamed and belittled in front of everyone in the classroom,” Heidi said. “She didn’t know what to think; she was so upset.”
Heidi Yatsko said she contacted teacher Hannah Copa, Principal James Carpenter and Superintendent Catherine Aukerman about the situation.
“I was looking for an apology for my child, that’s all,” Heidi said.
Aukerman told The Gazette on Thursday she believed the accusation of Domonique being “yelled at” was “not accurate.”
Aukerman said she was answering questions about the incident on behalf of Copa and Carpenter.
“When parents raise concerns in our schools, we look into it,” Aukerman said. “The daughter had felt that she had been reprimanded and didn’t understand why and I apologized for that and for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”
The superintendent added, “The situation as I understand it is several children expressed concerns to the teacher and the teacher asked the student to step into hallway and take off (the sweatshirt) because it was upsetting to some of the students, and she did.”
Hunting apparel, including camouflage and images of animals, does not violate the Highland dress code, Aukerman said.
“We respect the rich tradition of hunting that many students and families share in the community,” she said. “Not every family hunts and all children have been exposed to the images. But anything that becomes a disruption to classroom we have to take that into consideration.”
The story of the incident arose Wednesday through an editorial posted on OutdoorNews.com. Heidi Yatsko said she initially contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who passed the story along to the online publication.
This was the first year Domonique got her apprentice license and tags for hunting season. Per state requirements, the license allows youths under age 16 to hunt with adult supervision.
“She scouted the deer,” Heidi said. “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,” Heidi said.
Since the incident at school, the mother said Domonique hasn’t been her normal self.
“I think it hurt her more internally,” Heidi said. “The person she grew up to be and the family she’s surrounded by was told it’s wrong.”
Going hunting now, Heidi said, is a work in progress.
“We have finally gotten her to where she will go back out,” Heidi said. “We’re trying to bring the joy back to go out hunting and be in the tree stand.”
Hunting and farming is a family tradition for the Yatsko family, which has more than 200 acres of land. Heidi said their family history in Hinckley goes back to the 1800s.
“It’s the way we grew up and the way they are growing up,” Heidi said, who lives on 5 acres with her husband, George, and four children — Jager, 21; Matthew, 18; Domonique, 9; and Georgie, 8. “We raise and butcher our own livestock.”
To be able to hunt, Heidi said kids help on the farm by raising livestock, planting crops and planting separate fields specifically for wildlife.
Heidi’s father, Don Levandoski, owns 17 acres in Hinckley, and in-laws Gail and George Yatsko own 100 acres in Hinckley and 80 acres in Chatham Township.
“They’re a part of the daily activity,” Heidi said.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio’s young hunters checked 5,930 white-tailed deer during the two-day youth gun season, Nov. 19-20. Youth hunters could pursue deer with a legal shotgun, muzzleloader, handgun or specific straight-walled cartridge rifle, under supervision of an adult.
The youth deer-gun season is one of four special youths-only hunting seasons, including small game, wild turkey and waterfowl.
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.