School Withdraws Suspension Of Middle Schooler For “liking” Picture of An Airsoft Gun

There is another moronic application of the “zero tolerance” policy of public schools out of Ohio at the Edgewood Middle School.  Administrators informed the parents of Zachary Bowlin that he was facing suspension because he merely “liked” a picture of an airsoft gun on Instagram.  While the school withdrew the suspension after public outcry, there is (again) no indication that anyone will be disciplined for this abusive treatment of a middle schooler.

We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or playing with a stick gun or even having Danish in the shape of a gun or using menacing Level 2 finger guns. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never be blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversals, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.

In this case, Zach liked the picture around 8 pm with a caption saying “ready” and by the next morning he was called to the office. He told media that they “patted me down and checked me for weapons.” The school sent out an email to all families stating:

“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”

Superintendent Russ Fussnecker:

“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.”

That does not address the lunacy of threatening suspension over a kid liking an airsoft gun.  We recently discussed four students in California for “liking” images on Instagram. 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. 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 a student 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.  Even  cheerleaders are expected to conform their free speech to accept positions or risk removal from their teams.

What is clear is that administrators face no repercussions for blindly applying zero tolerance rules even though these actions often abuse young children. There is also no discussion of the expanding scope of monitoring and disciplining of students for speech in their private lives.  It is a dangerous combination of expanding powers and little accountability for applying zero tolerance rules.

28 thoughts on “School Withdraws Suspension Of Middle Schooler For “liking” Picture of An Airsoft Gun”

  1. I think what creeps me out more than the discipline of the child is that the school somehow monitors what he is doing at 8:00 pm at home.

    1. Truly, that is the mark of somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but believes in doing it with gusto.

  2. We act on any potential threat to student safety swiftly and with the utmost importance.

    If this were actually true, by far the greatest threat to student safety lies in the fact they’ve apparently been left in the care of abject morons. One clear way to act on that threat would be to sack everybody who had a hand in this, and replacing them with responsible adults.

  3. Zero Tolerance is the product of attorneys and educrats getting together and sharing their “wisdom.” Remember, the Education Industry is run by liberal Dems, and trial attorneys annually lead the list of contributors to the Dem Party.

  4. “The Board has a “zero tolerance” of violent, disruptive, harassing, intimidating, bullying, or any other inappropriate behavior by its students.”

    If the Board won’t change the zero tolerance nonsense then they need to be forced to amend this policy to read “ its students, faculty and administrators.

    1. 1.

      liking a post is NOT violent in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT disruptive in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT harassing in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT intimidating in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT bullying in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT any other inappropriate behavior in any way, shape, or form.

      liking a post is NOT any other inappropriate behavior by its students in any way, shape, or form.

      Why was he suspended again?

      oh yeah, for simply liking a post.


      There’s another public school that has also ruled that just having enthusiasm for hunting, (even off school property, off school hours) is a suspendable offense.”

      Just having the “enthusiasm” for it is a suspendable offense.

      While he was suspended,

      I’m surprised that school didn’t suspend the boy simply because the boy’s name is “Hunter”.

  5. Zero-tolerance policies in school are essentially an admission that the faculty is unqualified to supervise children.

    1. Drew – zero-tolerance means the school does not have to make individual decisions. It is a cop-out.

  6. Zero Tolerance. That should be the program which the public imposes on teachers, adminstrators and school boards which destroy our civil liberties. Where are the parents? Where are the students? Why are they not demonstrating in front of the school board and on the front lawn of the principal’s house?
    Zero Tolerance should extend to gun use. If someone shot the Sheriff in this situation then the topic wouild get more discussion. Recall the song: I Shot The Sheriff.

  7. This was another example of failure of judgement! It’s so tiring and disconcerting to see how unable school administrators are to make reasoned and nuanced judgments.

    As to this being and example of out of control pro gun control asdvicates coming to take your
    guns….that this another example of a failure to exercise rational judgment. No one has confiscated your guns. We just don’t want to be intimidated by a bunch of wannabe cowboys saying down the street with guns and ego loaded. Reasonable and rational gun control is just that reasonable and rational.

  8. Liking a picture of this airsoft gun is in context no different than liking an image of a toy dinner set.

  9. Lying gun grabbers. The anti-gun, pro-gun control folks will never be happy until they have confiscated every gun in the country, with the possible exception of ganged-up blacks in the inner cities. If they get their way on Universal Background Checks, does anybody suppose that idiots like Gabby Giffords and her p-whipped hubby will STFU, and close down their various organizations? Because they won’t. Each thing they advocate is simply another step toward total confiscation.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporters

  10. The goal is ideological purity..the death knell of intelligence.

  11. I feel sad for that child and the other children who will grow up without an education with no morals, values, ethics, or standards, and have no chance at all. Why?

    I found the answer once and it still holds true. Of those who go from high school to college/university level the upper fifth percentile provide students to the science and mathematics disciplines. The lower fifth provide sociology and teachers.

    At that point the the upper percentage of teachers learn something besides teaching, in descending order are coaches, principals, administrators, and those who work for the government at State and federal level in Education Departments.. I have seen no reason to change my evaluation over the decades.

    The best blue collar workers will always earn more than the fifth percentile in education UNLESS they get a job working for the government telling others how to do what they cannot.

  12. Why is the superintendent involved in disciplinary matters? What do we have principals for? Is there not enough to do when his responsibilities re budgeting, facilities planning, accounting and control, contract negotiations and grievances, performance audits, the motor pool, compliance monitoring, &c are discharged ???

  13. The parents would have to file a complaint against people at the district and ask for an outside investigator. You do not want them investigating themselves. An invasion of privacy lawsuit would be a good way to start. And add on libel.

  14. 1. They are tenured public employees. As long as they’re not caught with a dead girl or a live boy, they’re not likely to face ‘repercussions’.

    2. It’s a good bet they’ve been listening to their GC. Ever ask yourself what people in your trade have been doing to this country?

    3. School administration is a trade that is screened by coursework at teachers’ colleges. See Thomas Sowell on the culture of teachers’ colleges. (He’s not complimentary). Someone who will sit still for that is not like you or me. Stupid is as stupid does.

  15. First, middle schoolers should not be on social media. It just leads to either trouble, cyber bullying, cyber bullying by your school, or the memorialization of mistakes that are part of the record forever.

    Second, I do not have an Instagram account. Is it open, or is it private? How did the school gain access to his Instagram account? Were privacy laws breached?

    Finally, it would do America a public service if they sued the school district into the Stone Age. This student was harassed, bullied by the adults in whose care his parents had entrusted him, and his reputation was irreparably damaged by their unfounded, hysterical allegation. He will forever be known as “the kid who threatened to bring a gun to school.” Somehow, the truth never seems to be able to catch up with the swifter lie. They lied about him, damaged his reputation, and traumatized him.

    It is true that students get disciplined for imagined infractions, whilst administrators get away with traumatic harm to our children. So make it stop. And the only way to make it stop is to sue them. Heck, I would also get out the criminal code and find out if they could make anything stick. Kidnapping, perhaps, if they removed the student fraudulently and without his parents’ permission? False arrest due to filing a false police report? There must be something, honestly. If not, then suing them for every dime they have should make the position crystal clear.

    1. His ‘reputation’ isn’t damaged. It’s the school administration who’ve shot themselves in the foot here, looking ridiculous.

      I don’t imagine teachers or administrators care to be bothered monitoring the social media of their students. The smart money says some officious and contentious woman with a youngster enrolled there saw his positing on social media and called the school to kvetch. You’ve seen those stories about Montgomery County, Md. who’ve been hit with citations from social services multiple times for allowing their children to walk to a local park without accompaniment? They’ve indubitably got an officious wench among their near neighbors, and it’s a good bet that just that sort is behind this.

    2. Karen, Susan is our female curmudgeon. I guess it’s refreshing to know all curmudgeons aren’t male.

      1. a gender neutral and applies to both genders – male and female.

  16. I’m not sure it’s fair to place the entirety of blame on the Superintendent and/or administrators. This sentence from another write-up is interesting:

    “Fussnecker also mentioned that some students opted to stay home after the photo was posted to social media, saying that they felt uncomfortable.”

    Some of the parents/students seem to consider over-sensitivity to be a competitive sport. Non-contact, of course. Bunch of drama queens.

    1. Scott Adams had a story from one of his correspondents about some project at a company which was sparked by the ‘stack of complaints’ on a manager’s desk. There turned out to be one complaint.

    2. That’s interesting because he never posted that photo. That photo had been up already posted by someone else. . he merely liked it.

      If the students who stayed home stayed home because they felt uncomfortable about the photo being posted, then why did they wait so long after it was posted before staying home?

      Why didn’t they stay home as soon as they first saw the picture that made them uncomfortable?

      Why did they wait until the student liked it before staying home?

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