An Ohio middle school student was temporarily suspended for “liking” an Instagram post of what appeared to be a firearm. The school lifted the suspension following his parents’ protest.
The “firearm” turned out to be an airsoft toy. According to his parents, the boy did not comment or even share the post, he only liked it. The photo was captioned “ready.”
“The reason for the intended suspension is as follows: Liking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence,” said the suspension notice.
“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,” his father Marty Bowlin said. “He never shared, he never commented, he never made a threatening post … anything on the site, just liked it.”
The student, Zachary Bowlin, was initially suspended for 10 days. “I liked it, scrolling down Instagram at night about 7, 8 o’clock I liked it,” he said. “The next morning they called me down [to the office] patted me down and checked me for weapons.”
“Yesterday evening school officials were made aware to an alleged threat of a student bringing a gun to school,” said the school in an email to the school’s parents last Friday. “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.”
After discovering no threats to the school administrators dropped the suspension and said there will be no future repercussions for Bowlin.
School Superintendent Russ Fussnecker supplied local Fox New 19 a follow-up statement. “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,” said Fussnecker.
“The Board has a ‘zero tolerance’ [policy against] violent, disruptive, harassing, intimidating, bullying or any other inappropriate behavior by its students.”
“As the Superintendent of the Edgewood City Schools,” Fussnecker said, “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.”
How the school found out about their student’s social media activities is unclear. It could be that the school follows their students online or it could have been a worried parent who stepped in.