Edgewood Middle School in Trenton, Ohio, suspended a student for 10 days after he simply "liked" an Instagram photo of an airsoft gun. Airsoft guns shoot nonlethal plastic pellets, usually with compressed air or springs.
According to WBRC-TV, Zachary Bowlin reportedly used his phone to "like" the photo while off of school grounds, outside of school hours, and didn't leave a comment. Regardless, his parents received a suspension notice in the mail that read, “The reason for the intended suspension is as follows: Liking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence.”
"I was livid, I mean, I’m sitting here thinking ‘you just suspended him for 10 days for 'liking' a picture of a gun on a social media site," his father, Marty Bowlin said. "He never shared, he never commented, he never made a threatening post… anything on the site, just liked it."
Zachary said he "liked" the photo at around 8 p.m. at night, and the following morning he was called into the office where office administrators patted him down, and checked him for weapons.
The family reported, however, that since receiving the notice, the suspension has been dropped, and Zachary will not suffer any repercussions for liking the photo of an airsoft gun on Instagram.
On Friday, the school sent out an email to parents, saying:
“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. [sic]”
Superintendent Russ Fussnecker sent a statement to WBRC defending the school's actions and stating that the school has a "zero tolerance policy" for any inappropriate behavior, including "misbehavior" that occur off school property.
“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.”
Similar stories are popping up in various parts of the country. A family is pressing charges after they were forced to withdraw their 16-year-old daughter from school before she could be expelled after she was caught with a water gun at her school.
A recent case in California occurred last week where four students are being suspended for activity on their private social media accounts. The students from Albany High School, outside of San Francisco, are currently facing disciplinary actions for liking or commenting on a racially charged drawing on social media. The students' attorney argued that this would be no different than sharing private drawings at home and showing friends.