Updated on February 21, 2015: Gawker reports (via Times-Union) Draven Rodriguez has died. The 17-year-old’s cause of death was suicide. Asked about the school photo, his father, Jonathan Stewart, says, “He wasn’t trying to stir things up with it. He honestly just wanted a silly photo because he had a great sense of humor.” Although his photo was rejected as a high school portrait, it would receive its own special page. Stewart believes the photo will remain in the yearbook. Rodriguez is remembered for his humor, intelligence, and friendliness.
How many of us actually like our high school yearbook photos? Chances are, not many. Which is probably why 16-year-old Draven Rodriguez from Upstate New York wants to submit his own portrait to the Schenectady High School yearbook. “I don’t want to go in the yearbook with the generic ‘I-look-like-everyone-else’ photo,” Rodriguez told the Daily Gazette newspaper (h/t Gothamist). “I wanted a ‘He looks great. Only he would try that’ photo.” That’s fine and all, except what Rodriguez wants to use in place of standard headshot is one of him with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, with lasers in the background. The school, naturally, isn’t so sure about honoring the request.
The school district’s reasoning is that the photo would “obviously be very different from the others,” says Niskayuna Central School District spokeswoman, Karen Corona. The school district admits there are no guidelines when it comes to portraits, but they should be “professional-type head shots” that demonstrate “consistency and decorum of the section.” Corona says Rodriguez can use the photo in any other part of the yearbook.
However, Rodriguez’s photo was professionally shot, and he has put up a petition to get the photo approved. “I’m hoping that with enough signatures, my school simply can’t turn this down,” Rodriguez wrote in his online petition page. “To clarify, the school HAS NOT YET DECLINED this photo. This is my pre-emptive strike just in case such a thing were to happen. I wanted as many backers as possible before the deadline of September 15.”
Rodriguez had a goal of 500 signatures, but has surpassed that with 1,433. Still, there’s no guarantee if the school will grant Rodriguez’s wish. Is a school being too strict and not having enough fun, or is this a case of a teenager making a pointless demand? Regardless, this writer is signing his petition, because cats with lasers are just cool.