More than 200 parents, gun-rights activists, and student-privacy supporters protested a batch of student suspensions following a normal day at the range. Additionally, both the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs and New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union raised objections.
After posting photos of their day at a shooting range on Snapchat, two New Jersey students were disciplined and suspended. School authorities flagged their behavior as dangerous because it involved guns even though it was a peaceful, non-threatening activity and post.
Parents and community supporters reacted quickly and demanded that the school administers reverse their suspensions. At first, the administrators defended their actions and kept the boys in in-school suspension.
According to school policy, students are forbidden from possessing any weapons, including simulated weapons, in school. But that policy doesn’t apply to students off campus, on their own time after class.
Thanks to the enormous response to the school’s decision to suspend the boys, school administrators reversed the suspensions after four days of their five-day term. The district and the community are protecting the identities of the affected students.
Parents not only protested the excessively broad reading of school policy, they also objected to the practice of following student activities through social media.
“You guys are reaching into our private life, the private life of our children,” said Lewis Fiordimondo, a Lacey Township parent of a high school student. “It’s not your place. It’s not the school’s place.”
Other parents were more straightforward. “It’s none of your damn business what our children do outside of school,” said Frank Horvath during the parent-administrator board meeting.
“The bottom line is, schools are in charge of kids when they’re in school, and not in charge of kids when they’re not,” said ACLU attorney Alexander Shalom.
“These are top-quality kids,” said gun rights attorney Daniel L. Schmutter. “It’s astonishing what they have done to these kids.”
Still, some people defended the school’s actions. “In light of what happened in Parkland, Florida, how can anyone say this board did not do its job,” former Lacey school board member Regina Discenza asked. Protesters booed Discenza for her remarks.
Administrators also altered the school policy to clarify that it only applies to students on school property. “Students are forbidden to carry any type of weapon or simulated weapon to school,” reads the new policy. “Strict disciplinary action and legal actions will result if this occurs.”
It’s not clear whether or not administrators will cease following students on social media.