Public schools

Mississippi High School Suspended Student Indefinitely Over Alleged Gang Sign in Science Project Photo

Returned to school 21 days later after several local news reports, 21 other suspensions of students

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suspended
family photo

A 15-year-old high school student at Olive Branch High School in Mississippi was suspended indefinitely and threatened with expulsion after the administration accused him of throwing a gang sign (pictured right, in a re-enactment) in a photo of students posing with their biology project that their science teacher took, according to NBC News, which reported:

[Dontadrian] Bruce was summoned out of first-period English by assistant principal Todd Nichols, who showed him the photo. "You're suspended because you're holding up gang signs in this picture," said Nichols, according to Bruce.

Bruce explained that he was simply representing the number on his football jersey, "3," and that all the kids did it in football practice. He also said he had no idea the gesture was known to signal affiliation with the Vice Lords, a Chicago-based gang with a strong presence in Memphis, Tenn., 20 miles north of Olive Branch.

A quick Google search finds some examples of the purported Vice Lords hands signs. One website includes three versions, including the one the student was accused of making, and another that's basically the Vulcan salute. It should put into perspective the dubious ground on which these kinds of allegations are founded. NBC News uses the incident to delve into the broader issue of zero tolerance and the racial disparities thereof, tracing the explosion of zero tolerance policies to the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, which required expulsion for bring a firearm to school. That opened the flood gates to rapid escalation of zero tolerance policies.

NBC News notes Olive Branch doesn't refer to its anti-gang policies as "zero tolerance," but does warn students violating anti-gang policies could face penalties up to expulsion. Bruce reportedly returned to school after 21 days. The school was apparently spurred by local news reports and social media activity. Twenty-one other students posed making the same gesture as Bruce did in protest of his punishment, including his older brother, and they were all suspended too.

Bruce, his family, and his friends all say he doesn't belong to a gang, and there's no reason to believe he does. The student athlete says the three is for his football jersey number. Nevertheless, suspension would be inappropriate even if a student in a gang made an innocuous hand gesture in a photo snapped by a teacher.  Zero tolerance policies allow administrators to avoid making their own judgments on discipline. Coupled with "anti-gang" policies, they conflate non-violent activity (like hand gestures, colored clothing, or even hanging out with a group of more than two) with "gangs," especially while targeting minority students, and feed the perception that schools need to be mini-police states.

NEXT: Did the Culture that Feeds the Drug War Help Lead to Boston Bombing?

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  1. Bruce explained that he was simply representing the number on his football jersey, “3,”

    Wow. That is the first thing I thought of when I saw the picture.

    1. I thought it was one of those “half waves”, where the photo was taken while he was half-way through extending his fingers.

      Also, he must be German.

      1. “he must be German”

        THAT is what I thought. Put HIM in charge of Project Keno!

      2. I wave like that fairly often – I’m old (pushing 50, heh), and the energy needed to extend the remaining 2 fingers sometimes tires me out. . .

      3. Or French or Italian …

  2. What is the “AFT” gang sign? An open palm? An extended middle finger. Both thrown at taxpayers.

  3. That is 3 in American Sign Language… what maroons

    1. I would think this fact would be the groundwork for a massive lawsuit.

  4. John Wilkes Booth was known to have “waved” to people. Anyone exhibiting this behavior should be assumed to be a potential Presidential assassin, and immediately be taken into protective custody.

    1. You’re such a soft-on-crime liberal. Everyone (except people who have badges and thus their virtue is beyond reproach, natch) should be arrested. Waiting for “evidence” just lets the terrorists win! Think of the children (who should also be arrested).

      1. If we can save the life of only one child (who will have been arrested), it will all have been worth it.

  5. and another that’s basically the Vulcan salute.

    I’m in favor of suspending Vulcans also. They are always claiming Shakespeare as one of their own.

    1. Uh, that’s Klingons who claim Shakespeare, Snark.

    2. I don’t tink so, Keptin. Uilyam Shakspirov vas a great Vrussian vriter.

      /Pavel Chekov

  6. Imagine if he made a finger gun? They’d have called the SWAT team!

    1. He’s obviously making a double barreled sawed off shotgun finger gun – the old kind, with external hammers. This kid isn’t just a gang member, he’s a hardcore executioner.

  7. He’s displaying another obvious sign of being in a gang.

    1. Tell me its the fuchsia jersey.

    2. Pink football jersey?

      1. Obviously a member of the Pink Panthers.

      2. I am a nightmare walking, underclassman talking
        King of my jungle just a misidentified gangster stalking
        Living life like a firecracker quick is my fuse
        Then suspended as a delinquent the colors I choose
        White or Pink, Home or Away, it just don’t matter
        Sucker die for your life when my shotgun formation scatters
        We gangs of Olive Branch will never die – just multiply

    3. Gun barrel shaped hair?

  8. He’s obviously a part of the Conquistador gang. Ban the school.

    1. Hey, isn’t Conquistador one of those bad team names? If Warriors or Braves triggers indians, don’t you think Conquistador would offend any Mexican type students?

  9. That’s what you get for being one of those freaks who starts counting with the thumb.

    1. How else do you get to 31?

  10. According to that website, their gang sign is the Vulcan greeting and their symbols are a top hat, bow tie and cane.

    So the Vice Lords are libertarians?

    1. No, they need monocles for that.

  11. Set school administrators to Full Idiocracy.

    FIRE!

  12. My gang’s sign is standing with our arms at out sides.

  13. Gang members doing their biology homework? Now that is scary.

    1. It’s worse than we thought. He’s obviously researching biological weapons. We need new tools in the war on gangs, the war on drugs, the war on terror, and any other wars to prevent it from happening!

    2. It’s worse than we thought. He’s obviously researching biological weapons. Time to throw him, his friends, parents and teachers into Gitmo. Better safe than sorry!

      1. So my first post didn’t post, even after I reloaded it wasn’t there. Then I typed it slightly differently, THEN both of them post. I hate these squirrels.

      2. I had to look up the project. Behold, the danger:

        He and his group had constructed a double helix out of Legos

  14. My son’s school last week had a couple of anti-bullying ‘spirit’ days.

    On Tuesday, they wanted the kids to wear orange to signal their opposition to bullying.

    On Wednesday, they wanted the kids to wear red to signal their opposition to using the word ‘retard’.

    I guess someone in the administration is a fan of the Bloods and not the Crips.

    1. I hope you sent your son to school wearing different colors.

      1. He didn’t bother to wear orange on the first day, and the guidance counselors became very hurt and upset.

        The next day he wore red, to make them feel better about themselves.

        I admit that the temptation to show him the episode where Timmy and Jimmy start their local franchise of the Crips was strong within me.

        1. He didn’t bother to wear orange on the first day, and the guidance counselors became very hurt and upset.

          Thus your son learned an object lesson about bullying.

          1. I wonder what would have happened had your son told the “guidance counselors” that they were being bullies?

        2. “A guidance counselor? We dress on the word of a guidance counselor?”

          “Can’t afford not to.”

          (Sorry, I watched Gettysburg last night)

      2. He didn’t bother to wear orange on the first day, and the guidance counselors became very hurt and upset.

        The next day he wore red, to make them feel better about themselves.

        I admit that the temptation to show him the episode where Timmy and Jimmy start their local franchise of the Crips was strong within me.

        1. And lo, tarran faced the temptation twice!

        2. He should have worn orange on the red day. Bullying is bad, hard to argue with that. But I think that the war against the word “retard” is a losing battle. I’m sorry if you are an actual retard and the word makes you feel bad, but it is a well established mild insult at this point and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

          1. Actual bullying is bad, it seems like schools and parents have expanded the definition so far that it’s hard to take the anti-bullying campaign seriously. Why does everything have to have a war these days?

          2. What was really pathetic about the whole fiasco is that they are focusing not on behavior, but the use of forbidden words like “ginger”, “retard”, “Belgium” as if the words have evil power.

            That and the counselor reduced pathetically to asking my son “how would you feel if I called you black-haired?” when he questioned the attempt to censor the word “ginger”.

            It was like the time he was debating drug legalization with the DARE officer; he just doesn’t accept the futility of arguing with people whose job requires them to close their mind to certain lines of argument, and the danger to a free-thinker when the authority figures feel that their authority depends on crushing dissent.

            1. “how would you feel if I called you black-haired?”

              “Um, like you’re a fucking MORON, cause I’m a soulless ginger with blondish/red hair, you stupid cunt. Can I go to lunch now?”

    2. I love how the anti-bullying effort relies on, well, bullying kids into wearing shirts of certain colors.

      1. That irony did not escape my son. In fact, I suspect he is realizing that many people who find working within the Blob an interesting career aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

      2. Didn’t all of this start when Gene Roddenberry bullied the red shirted crewmen?

  15. I wouldn’t have thought it was a gang sign for the simple reason that it’s kind of difficult to be “hard” while wearing pink.

    1. Yeah, I’m surprised the school chose those uniforms.

      1. I’m almost 100% certain that it’s to do with breast cancer awareness.

    2. Um, I’m pretty sure if we’re going to discuss pink clothing we are legally obligated to hate on Arpaio a little bit.

  16. Also, is the Kin ‘n’ Play style flat top coming back into style or something?

    1. Maybe you haven’t seen Justin “Vanilla Ice” Beiber lately? It’s all coming back around.

      I can’t wait to get my flannel back out.

      1. Yeah, I’ve noticed a lot of the fashions that were popular when I was in school are coming back into style. My theory is that all the clothing labels put their unsold stock into warehouses for ~20 years and then bring them back out and sell them to a new generation that doesn’t realize they’re just buying the same shit their parents did. Remember back in the ’90s when bell bottoms made a brief reappearance?

        1. What’s interesting to me is that the time between when things are popular to when they make a comeback is getting shorter.

          U.S. Government is studying this:

          WASHINGTON, DC?At a press conference Monday, U.S. Retro Secretary Anson Williams issued a strongly worded warning of an imminent “national retro crisis,” cautioning that “if current levels of U.S. retro consumption are allowed to continue unchecked, we may run entirely out of past by as soon as 2005.”

          http://www.theonion.com/articl…..of-pa,873/

  17. Bruce explained that he was simply representing the number on his football jersey, “3,”

    Quick! Hold up three fingers! Now, look at your hand.

    and that all the kids did it in football practice.

    Emphasis added.

    Gotta go with the authorities on this one.

    /sarc

  18. “I don’t understand it, so it must be gang-related” is the new “I don’t understand it, so it must be drug-related.”

    1. I think you mean, “Black kid moved his hand” is the new “It must be gang-related.”

      Black kid moves hand while it contains object = “HE HAS A GUN AND HE’S COMING RIGHT FOR US! SHOOT HIM NOW! I DEMAND THAT YOU SHOOT HIM NOW!”

      Black kid moves hand while it does not contain an object = “SNEAKY BLACK KID IS EITHER USING JIVE OR SIGNALLING GANG AFFILIATION! SUSPEND HIM!”

  19. If he had the same grin in the original photo, the admins are idiots. That is obviously not a kid trying to look hard.

    1. You idiot! That’s a gang-related face gesture!

  20. I was under the impression that our school system taught tolerance. Apparently, the teach zero tolerance.

    1. Thye teach prog tolerance.

      The kind where the more intolerant of the intolerant you are, the more tolerant you are.

      1. And you demonstrate your tolerance by freaking out when a black kid moves his hand. Because progs are not racist.

        It’s all very confusing

      2. Why do libertarians go on about “social tolerance”? I mean don’t the progs think that libertarianism is ipso facto intolerant by being dissenters?

        Not to mention said “social tolerant” still like to ban things they don’t like.

    2. Apparently, the teach zero tolerance.

      There is zero tolerance for the intolerant.

  21. Kid should have been in the teachers union. Then the worst he would have faced is paid vacation.

  22. Kid should have been in the teachers union. Then the worst he would have faced is paid vacation.

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