This post is based partly on this news article.
These days it seems that things are getting less and less clear in schools. Students are assigned online videos to learn material, and then given practice problems to complete in class. Now even the schoolyard fence isn’t clear. More and more students are being disciplined for their posts on supposedly private social media pages, personal views and statements are being used against them, and apparently taking pictures isn’t allowed.
Two Middleborough, Massachusetts students are currently facing suspension, possibly even expulsion, for a picture that they took and posted to their own Facebook pages. In the picture, the two students are seen holding what look like modern automatic weapons, although they are actually airsoft guns. These replicas fire 6mm plastic BBs and are often used in “skirmishes” similar to paintball markers. At most, the guns can give you some small red welts… or a ten day suspension; either one.
The school, Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School, claims that the caption stating “Homecoming 2014” inferred that they were going to bring the replicas to the event. The superintendent stated (as quoted directly from the news article) “It has nothing to do with free speech. Their behavior caused a significant disruption in the school… We had our homecoming event on Friday and following that the students were looking at Facebook and, of course, it caused a tumult in the building.”
Yes, you read that right, the photo was only noticed after the event had happened. And it’s not infringing on free speech at all to publicly punish two students for something posted to their personal Facebook pages. Because guns of any type, even toy guns, are terrifying implements of mass destruction and we need to protect our children’s eyes from these images…
Now then, let’s keep a list of ways the school completely screwed this one up:
- Schools have no power over students’ private social media accounts. Had this photo been posted to the school’s Facebook page, or a page for the event, that would be a completely different issue. This is one of the reasons that only my friends can see what I post on Facebook.
- It may be a small issue here, but it’s worth noting that if the pictured weapons were real, they would require an LTC-A firearms license to possess, and even then the magazines would likely be illegal (if they were manufactured post 1994). Add to that the fact that real versions of the replica firearms would cost somewhere around $3600+ for the two guns (around $1300 and $700+), both holographic sights ($500 each), and three NFA tax stamps ($200 each. One each for the short barrels, and another for the silencer on the girl’s gun). Rarely do we see school shootings happen with such expensive loadouts.
- The school was not informed of the picture until AFTER the event happened. And yet they still pulled the two students away as they were heading to a track meet the next week. It’s pretty clear that no shooting occurred at the school event, and yet the students are still being punished for “causing a disruption” during the event.
- The students requested to contact their parents, but their request was denied. Police aren’t allowed to deny suspected murderers access to a lawyer, and yet the school had police officers “talk to them” without their parents present. Had the request not been made, perhaps the school could argue that it was an oversight on their part, but directly refusing to allow the student’s parents to be informed of the incident is blatantly violating these students’ rights.
- Kids do this stuff. My personal prom photos included a few of myself posing with my Walther P99 style BB gun. I even wore cuff links made from spent .45ACP casings. The pictures got a few laughs from friends, but nothing more. It’s one thing for a school to control what happens at the events, but schools have no right to dictate a student’s private life off campus and outside of school hours.
Dark sunglasses like a boss
Unfortunately, this is not the first time such an incident has occurred. Schools across the country have punished students for wearing NRA shirts, personal postings on private social media accounts, and more. And the worst part is that many schools can get away with it unchallenged. Unless more proud Americans are willing to call out blatant infringements on our rights, we will keep losing them. Which brings us back to my first question: Where does it end?