While schools have reason to keep guns off their premises, many districts have built a reputation for going ballistic over mere images – a gun company logo on a pen, a T-shirt image or even a toaster pastry eaten into the shape of a gun.
Some observers may have thought that level of extremism would have died out after lawmakers in Florida were forced to pursue a state law that would bar school districts from suspending students for “brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item” bitten into the shape of a weapon.
The newest case comes courtesy of Edgewood Middle School in Trenton, Ohio, where officials handed a 10-day suspension to a seventh-grader who “liked” an image of a toy gun on social media.
The local Fox station, Fox19, reported the district was forced to back down quickly.
The school had informed student Zachary Bowlin and his parents that he was to be suspended because he “liked” the gun image in Instagram.
“The reason for the intended suspension is as follows: Liking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence.”
The station reported his father’s reaction.
“I was livid, I mean, I’m sitting here thinking ‘you just suspended him for ten days for liking a picture of a gun on a social media site,'” Marty Bowlin said. “He never shared, he never commented, he never made a threatening post … anything on the site, just liked it.”
The image on Instagram actually was of an airsoft gun, more or less a toy, not a real weapon, the parents said.
Zachary explained he was on his social media sites in the evening, and by morning, when he arrived at school, “they called me down (to the office) patted me down and checked me for weapons.”
The family said the school shortly later notified them that the suspension was being dropped, but school officials still attempted to portray the situation as a potential threat.
Supt. Russ Fussnecker said in a statement: “Concerning the recent social media posting of a gun with the caption ‘Ready,’ and the liking of this post by another student, the policy at Edgewood City Schools reads as follows: The board has a ‘zero tolerance’ of violent, disruptive, harassing, intimidating, bullying, or any other inappropriate behavior by its students.”
He said further that students “are also subject to discipline as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct that occurs off school property when the misbehavior adversely affects the educational process.”
“As the superintendent of the Edgewood City Schools, I assure you that any social media threat will be taken serious including those who ‘like’ the post when it potentially endangers the health and safety of students or adversely affects the educational process.”
It’s just the latest in a long string of incidents, dating back many years, on which WND has reported.
For example, in 2014, school officials in Chicago hit the ceiling when a 6th-grader apparently forgot an inoperable plastic toy gun in his jacket pocket when he went to school.
Although the student, Caden Cook in Frederick Funston Elementary School, called a teacher’s attention to the plastic toy, he was suspended for two months for violating the district’s “dangerous weapons” policy, an action the school district shortly later reversed.
“This is one of those rare occasions where reason prevails in the midst of the lunacy of zero tolerance policies, which are transforming our schools into quasi-prisons,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which represented Cook at the time.
“Let us hope that other schools across the country will take note of this case, and realize that we will not stand idly by while our children are threatened by an increasingly authoritarian government that has no interest in the rights of students.”
- In 2010, a teenage hunter in Montana faced a school hearing after she inadvertently parked in a school parking lot with a hunting rifle locked in a case inside her car trunk. Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association told WND Demarie DeReu was an honor roll student, a member of the Columbia Falls High School student council and a varsity cheerleader. “Although she had no intent to break any rules or laws, or harm anyone, Demarie is at risk of having her college education derailed and maybe even being identified forever as a domestic terrorist,” Marbut explained.
- WND also reported when a professor at a Connecticut school sparked controversy by calling police when a student talked about the Second Amendment during a class speech. Cited was student John Wahlberg of Central Connecticut State University. The student was fulfilling an assignment for his Communications 140 class that required him to discuss a “relevant issue in the media” when he and two other students on a team chose to talk about school violence, including recent events such as the 2007 shootings that left nearly three dozen people dead at Virginia Tech University. Wahlberg made the point during his class presentation that if students were allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus, the violence could have been stopped earlier. He discussed the concept of college campus gun-free zones. That evening, campus police called him because his professor, Paula Anderson, had filed a complaint about his words.
- A Colorado high-school student was suspended for 10 days for having non-functioning drill team rifle replicas in her car in a parking lot at school.
- A Texas school threatened its students for even talking about guns.
- A district banished a shirt because it had the image of a gun.
- In another case, a student was suspended simply for advocating for the Second Amendment.
A 2008 case caught up a kindergarten student in Tennessee who had a toy weapon.
It violated the school’s zero-tolerance rules and resulted in a mandatory year-long suspension.
The Texas school that punished students for even talking about guns was Lone Star College-Tomball. It happened while campus clubs were recruiting newcomers, and the club issued a joking “Top Ten Gun Safety Tips.”
The tongue-in-cheek recommendations included:
- Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, such as at a hippy or a communist.
- No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a monkey.
- Don’t load your gun unless you are ready to shoot something or are just feeling generally angry.
- If your gun misfires, never look down the barrel to inspect it.
- Never use your gun to pistol whip someone. That could mar the finish.
- No matter how excited you are about buying your first gun, do not run around yelling, “I have a gun! I have a gun!”
It was in 2008 when a three-day suspension was handed down to a student who brought to campus a pen with the corporate logo of the Glock company.
Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and the father of the unidentified student reported he convinced the school officials to not only withdraw the threat but also the formal reprimand that already had been placed in his son’s educational file.
The pen had only the company’s name, not even an image of any weapon.
In 2003 a 12-year-old student who brought his unloaded gun to a firearms-safety course at his public school was met with a surprise when administrators and instructors intercepted him in enforcement of the district’s new “zero-tolerance policy.”
Nick Ziegeweid had been told to bring his shotgun when he signed up for the class at Winona Middle School in Winona, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. But when he arrived on the first day of the Saturday morning course, the officials reminded him the year-old policy bars students from carrying guns on school grounds, with no exceptions.
“It’s like teaching a math class without a calculator,” Scott Sabotta, the course instructor, told the Minneapolis paper. “The whole point of the class is to save injury or life. In some ways, our hands have been tied with the decision that they made.”
In 2002, when 9-year-old Jonathan Cross dressed up in his duck-hunting outfit for his school’s Camouflage Day, he never dreamed his love for the sport would backfire on him.
Covered from head to toe in his gear, the fourth-grader was “a very happy camper,” according to his mother, excited to show off his new hunting boots, hat, mesh face mask, shirt, bib, pants and boots.
But there was something in his pocket he had forgotten about – a shotgun shell left over from an outing with his father and brothers last weekend.
He was suspended from Fred A. Anderson Elementary School in Bayboro, North Carolina, for five days.
In the 2005 book “Marketing of Evil,” author David Kupelian uncovered even more outlandish results.
- Four kindergartners in Sayreville, New Jersey, were suspended from school for three days for playing “cops and robbers” on the playground during recess. The boys were found guilty of using their fingers as guns and shouting words like “bang” while running around the school yard.
- Three boys were suspended from Bemiss Elementary School in Spokane, Washington, for bringing to school miniature toy guns from G.I. Joe action figures. The toys were about one to three inches, but the school said it stands by its zero-tolerance policy on “weapons.”
- In New Jersey, a 9-year-old student was suspended from school for a day and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after mentioning to a friend his intent to “shoot” a classmate with a wad of paper. The fourth-grader had planned to launch spitballs at the girl using a rubber band.
A judge in Maryland, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth, ruled that the school system could reasonably consider that the boy’s actions to be “disruptive.”
“A suspension was appropriately used as a corrective tool to address this disruption, based on the student’s past history of escalating behavioral issues,” the judge said of the two-day suspension.