In what is surely only the latest example of political correctness run amok, an Ohio 7th grader was patted down and suspended for "liking" a photo of an airsoft gun on social media.
Zachary Bowlin of Edgewood Middle School in Trenton was given a 10-day suspension by school officials after he liked an Instagram photo of an airsoft pistol...a pistol that shoots pellets. The photo's caption read "Ready."
"I liked it, scrolling down Instagram at night about 7, 8 o'clock I liked it," Zachary told Fox19. "The next morning they called me down [to the office], patted me down and checked me for weapons."
"I don't think I did anything wrong," said Zachary. "Then, they told me I was getting expelled or suspended or whatever."
Zachary's father Marty Bowlin was outraged:
"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. He never shared, he never commented, he never made a threatening post...anything on the site, just liked it."
"My wife called and said he'd been pulled into the office, and he was being suspended because he liked a picture on Instagram that his friend posted .. of a weapon, of an airsoft gun," Mr. Bowlin recounted. "It was 10 days suspension with the possibility of expulsion. I'm like, 'For liking a gun? Did he make a comment or threat or anything?' And it's like, 'No. He just liked a picture.' I'm like, 'Well, this can't happen.'"
Zachary commented on the photo his friend posted: "I mean, I figured he'd cleaned his gun and was ready, wanting to play and stuff."
"The young man that posted it and my son, and probably four or five other kids, play airsoft in our field," Marty Bowlin said. "So I pretty much knew what it was about. So I really wasn't concerned."
School officials apparently felt much differently about the non-incident. The Friday morning following the Thursday suspension the school sent out this email to parents:
Yesterday evening, school officials were made aware to an alleged threat of a student bringing a gun to school. We act on any potential threat to student safety swiftly and with the utmost importance. This morning, the alleged threat was addressed and we can assure you that all students at Edgewood Middle School are safe and school will continue as normal. Thank you.
According to Edgewood City Schools Superintendent Russ Fussnecker, "When you're dealing with school districts nowadays and there are pictures of guns, regardless of the kind of gun it is, it's a gun. And there are certain images or words, I can't determine if that's playful or real. And until I can get to an investigation, I have to look into it, those students have to be removed."
So, it's a 'shoot first, ask questions later' kind of a policy.
One can understand if there was a genuine threat, but this kind of reaction from some schools seems a bit irrational. While school children in some other countries are learning to disassemble and assemble firearms, in America we seem to lose our minds if a kid points his finger and makes "Pew! Pew!" sounds.
Remember the child who got suspended because he bit his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, or the kid who actually did get suspended for making the likeness of a "gun" with his fingers ("Pew! Pew!").
And who can forget the Boy Scouts of America banning squirt guns and labeling them as weapons?
Below is a statement issued to parents by the school:
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.
Furthermore, the policy states:
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.
After speaking with Zachary's parents Fussnecker lifted the suspension. Is it possible that he could have spoken with them prior to patting Zachary down and issuing a 10-day suspension with possibility of expulsion?
"He was a very reasonable man, and they seemed to see it our way," Marty Bowlin said.
"He [Zachary] shoots, hunts, fishes," Bowlin said of his son. "He's a country boy."
"It's handled now and everything's all right," Zach Bowlin added.
According to One News Now, Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead, who provided legal representation for the Bowlin, said
"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. 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."
After receiving the notice from the family, the school did end up dropping the suspension: a mostly happy ending. We wish the best to Zachary and his family.
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