Public schools

This Kid Was Suspended for 10 Days Because He 'Liked' a Picture of a Gun on Instagram

"Any social media threat will be taken seriously," even when it's not serious.


Fox 19

Middle-school student Zachary Bowlin didn't bring a gun to school. He didn't say the word gun. He didn't do anything wrong, or dangerous, to merit a 10-day suspension from Edgewood Middle School in Trenton, Ohio.

Bowlin "liked" a picture of a gun on Istagram. That's it. He didn't do this during school hours, with school resources, or on school property.

But, according to the aptly-named Superintendent Russ Fussnecker:

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."

The school apparently interpreted the photo's caption—the single word "Ready"—as a threat to attack, even though the photo didn't make reference to school at all. (Furthermore, the pictured weapon is an airsoft gun.)

"I liked it, scrolling down Instagram at night about 7, 8 o'clock I liked it," Bowlin told FOX 19. "The next morning they called me down [to the office] patted me down and checked me for weapons."

The school eventually cancelled the suspension, though district officials have given no indication that they believe they acted rashly. Administrators should not have the power to punish students who engage in constitutionally-protected speech, especially in their own homes.