Teenagers In Massachusetts Pose With Airsoft Guns in Pre-Dance Photo . . . School Officials Respond With Indefinite Suspensions Of Both Teens

10409231_707381359356504_6530552318647936744_n-640x853There is another controversy raising the increasing assertion of authority of school officials over pictures and statements made by students outside of school. In Massachusetts, Jamie Pereira was suspended from school after a photo of her and her boyfriend, Tito Velez, both 16, holding Airsoft rifles was posted on Facebook. A caption beneath the photograph read: “Homecoming 2014.” The picture looks like a new American Gothic for some and a threat to others. However, the controversy again raises the limits and discretion of school officials in monitoring speech outside of school for students and teachers alike. There was good reason to be concerned but the punishment was due to the disruption caused rather than an actual threat from the picture.

The admitted mistake of the teenage couple was to put “Homecoming” at the bottom of the picture. School officials were legitimately concerned but this was not a preventative step but a disciplinary action. There is no suggestion of an actual threat intended by the picture. I fail to see why such problems cannot be addressed with a reprimand and calling in the parents. Both students have been suspended for an unknown length of time.

Superintendent Richard Gross insists that punishment is appropriate and will reflect the disruption caused when the picture was circulated by other students. Notably, the picture was posted hours after a Washington state teen shot five fellow students inside his high school before taking his own life. However, Gross insisted that “This is about the tumult created by their online activity.”

The teens were apparently just trying to come up with something different for their pre-dance photos. The photo was later removed.
Velez, who could not be reached for comment early Wednesday, reportedly said he and his girlfriend simply wanted to “do something unique and different” instead of taking typical pre-dance photographs.

I have previously written about the increasing monitoring and discipline of teachers for conduct in their private lives. We have seen teachers face discipline over social media pictures holding a weapon. Even a picture of a teacher holding a glass of a drink is enough to trigger discipline.

Once again, there is clearly a need for officials to act upon any threat. However, there remains a dangerous ambiguity over the scope and use of such authority. Given the ludicrous application of “zero tolerance” rules, officials commonly impose extreme punishments rather than exercise judgment (and expose themselves to the risk of criticism) over the handling of such controversies.

We have seen a steady erosion of the free speech rights of students in the last decade. The Supreme Court accelerated that trend in its Morse decision. Former JDHS Principal Deb Morse suspended Frederick in 2002 during the Olympic Torch Relay for holding up a 14-foot banner across from the high school that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The case ultimately led to the Supreme Court which ruled in Morse v. Frederick ruling in 2007 for the Board — a decision that I strongly disagreed with and one that has encouraged over-reaching by school officials into protected areas.

For a copy of the Morse decision, click here.

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia SotomayorCivil libertarians hoped that Obama would appoint someone with a strong commitment to free speech and student rights. I was very concerned over the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor because of her role in the Donniger case where she ruled against high school student Avery Doninger who contested her punishment for posting an objectionable message on an Internet site about Lewis Mills High School. When she objected to the cancellation of a school event in vulgar terms, school officials barred her from running for Senior Class secretary. In Doninger v. Niehoff, the Second Circuit upheld the right of school officials to punish students for out-of–school speech in a major blow to both the first amendment and student rights.

This case has obviously different and more compelling facts for actions. However, this remains a picture taken outside of school with two airsoft guns. It would seem an appropriate cause for a telephone call and not some open-ended suspension in my opinion.

Source: Taunton Gazette

207 thoughts on “Teenagers In Massachusetts Pose With Airsoft Guns in Pre-Dance Photo . . . School Officials Respond With Indefinite Suspensions Of Both Teens”

  1. Squeeky, LOL! I hope you don’t get too big a head here because you have no completion. You stay humble, now ya’ hear.

  2. @Annie

    That was very good! Here is another entry for the anti-Coulterites!

    Haute Coulter???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    Ann Coulter’s not my cup of tea.
    Cause she teases the people like ME!
    She’s rude and sarcastic,
    Finds Liberals bombastic,
    And punctures our egos with glee!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Liberal hosts can be so sweet and cute – MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry concluded the “What’s So Funny About 2013?” segment of her Sunday show with a chorus of laughter at the black grandson pictured in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s family Christmas photo. The chuckles were directed at baby Kieran – who was adopted by Romney’s son Ben and his wife Andelynne in September. – “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same,” “And that little baby, front and center, would be the one,” Comedian Dean Obeidallah joked that the baby is a token.

      “It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party and the RNC, where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person.”

      Oh hardy har har funny 🙁 not

  3. Happy, I’m trying to say that because this kid is black, while holding a rifle, he will probably be seen as threatening asvopposed to the ‘cute’ couple who bcause they are caucasion seem non threatening to certain folks.

    1. I know that Annie, but he is not holding a toy or it doesn’t look like a toy??? is it a toy. Those other kids look like something out of “Children of the Corn” if you want to know the truth of it or like that little kid on the Twilight Zone that could put you in the corn field if he didn’t like you lolololol 🙂 The black kid looks happy but all that jewelry and the bs sign what a smart azz lolol

  4. MikeA, The most draconian mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines were bullied through Congress by Tip O’Neill. Certainly you remember. Like all good pols, Tip knew better than almost all, that “all politics are local.” He might have coined that phrase. He was my brother’s Congressman when the beloved Celtics drafted Len Bias out of Maryland. The Celts needed help, and Len was thought to be the ticket. But, right after being drafted, Bias exploded his heart doing crack. Celt fans went ballistic. You don’t want them Irishmen up in arms! Now, the Dems were getting hammered nationally. So, being the consummate pol, Tip saw a win/win. Bully through legislation, making crack sentencing mandatory minimums MUCH higher than powder. Oops, very racist, but those Southie Dems are as racist as it comes so Tip had cover there. These racist mandatory minimums remained for decades, until recently. My wife had to do presentence investigations using these O’Neill laws and HATED IT! They were finally changed on a bipartisan vote, ending a long nightmare for crack cocaine defendants. I agree, mandatory minimums have a been a bipartisan sin, but the biggest sinner was liberal icon Tip O’Neill. I’m sure he made to heaven though. He gave lots of money to the Catholic Church!

    1. Nick – Mandatory sentencing started with the Boggs Act in 1952 and was followed by the State of New York before the Feds ramped it up again.

  5. Ann Coulter, oh but thou art foul!
    Adams apple bobbing up and down.
    Hunting dogs and moonlight howl.
    Bats in belfry fly roun’ and roun’

  6. I don’t think any of the pictures of guns are appropriate but really now.

  7. Squeeky:

    I respectfully suggest that the third line would flow better if it read, “But because I’m a dunce.”

  8. @Elaine

    Nice try! Here is my stab at it! For those who don’t like Coulter, their own special Irish Poem!

    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    Ann Coulter is not very nice!
    Quite often she makes me think twice.
    But because I’m a dunce
    I seldom think once!
    Cause for Democrats, that will suffice . . .

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Ever notice how stupid Liberals sound when they cut down Conservative Newscasters. And I like Annie. I don’t know what Elaine’s problem is. 🙂

  9. Squeeky:

    For Pete’s sake, fear is not a partisan tool. Ms. Coulter uses it herself with great frequency. I’m sure she is terrified at the increasing Hispanic population in Connecticut. A good current example is the manner in which ebola has been embraced as a way to terrify people into believing that the President has a plan to subdue the nation for Islam by bringing in hordes of diseased people of color. Great timing for the mid-terms.

  10. Actually we can thank Republican Ronald Reagan for his pushing mandatory minimums en masse and sticking us with the bill:

    “Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.
    Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85% of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.
    The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor:

    President RONALD REAGAN: (From 1988) Nancy, for your tireless efforts on behalf of all of us, and the love you’ve shown the children in your Just Say No program, I thank you and personally dedicate this bill to you. And with great pleasure, I will now sign the Anti-Drug…”

    All for Nancy, I see.

  11. We also had a sit in that eeeeveryone remembers at Riverview Gardens regarding dress because they wouldn’t let us wear blue jeans. Everyone walked out 2000 students walked out. The Principal got on the intercom and told us we would all be suspended if we did not go back to class — this was in 1971 mind you. —- and there was a deafening whooooooooooo . It was great. Total rebellion. lololololol 🙂 Everyone needs to lighten up. That is the problem imo.

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