For today’s kids, events in the virtual world can be just as important, and just as impactful on their lives, as reality.
That was evident in Ohio last week, when a middle school student got in trouble at his school for simply liking a photo on Instagram. The very next morning he was called down to the office and physically searched for weapons.
According to this story from kron4.com, seventh-grader Zachary Bowlin was given a 10-day suspension from Edgewood Middle School after he liked a photo of an airsoft gun on the popular photo-sharing app.
"I don't think I did anything wrong," Bowlin said in the story. "[The] next morning, they called me down and, like, patted me down and checked me for weapons. Then, they told me I was getting expelled or suspended or whatever."
The note the school sent home to Bowlin’s parents said the official cause of his suspension was “liking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence.”
Bowlin’s father, Martin, was not happy about the news.
"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,'" Bowlin said in this story from fox19.com. "He never shared, he never commented, he never made a threatening post… anything on the site, just liked it."
The story says the superintendent of Edgewood City Schools Russ Fussnecker released a statement that read, "I assure you that any social media threat will be taken seriously, including those who 'like' the post when it potentially endangers the health and safety of students or adversely affects the educational process."
Fussnecker did not offer an explanation on how a student liking a photo on social media—that, for all he and anyone else knows, is a photo of someone’s new airsoft gun for an upcoming match—endangers the health and safety of his fellow students, or how it affects the education process.
“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”
“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.”