Distance Learning Ethics: A Student Shows A Gun From His Home, And The School Freaks Out

“Look, Mom! Billy has a cool crossbow!”

In the first weeks of compelled distance learning in many school districts, schools encountered many issued that should have been anticipated but were not.

One student at Montgomery County, Maryland’s Albert Einstein High School horrified officials—I haven’t been able to determine what the students thought–by showing a gun. The gun was legally purchased’ the gun wasn’t loaded. No threats were made. Nonetheless , the school seemed to think that it had authority and leave to take action.

Montgomery County Public Schools Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told local news media that the school system is not going to tolerate anything online they wouldn’t allow in the classroom.

“For any student of ours who thinks, ‘Oh because it’s online learning, there aren’t disciplinary actions they can take,’ and they actually have that wrong. And as we spelled out very clearly to our message to the community this morning,” said Onijala. Indeed, now the school system says it will be taking disciplinary action, though Montgomery County Police announced that they did not charge the 17-year-old  who displayed the weapon.

Gee, that’s comforting. Thanks, Big Brother! Exactly what would the police charge the student with? I don’t think the school has any basis to discipline the student either, and if I was the student’s parent, I would not accept any punishment at all from that source, or the police, of course. The option of punishments would be mine, because the offense occurred on my turf, the offense being  handling my gun.

By what contrived and unconstitutional theory can the state demand that my children participate in school from home, and based on that intrusion, dictate that it suddenly has domain over my home and family? If the rule is that a student may not bring a gun to school, that rule does not automatically mean that a student cannot do or show something in his own home that would not be permitted in the school building.

When I told my sister, also a lawyer, about this episode, her immediate reaction was, “Really? What if had been a toy gun?” Good one, sis! Toy guns (not to mention pictures of guns, T-shirts with NRA slogans, and kids making  imaginary guns using their fingers) aren’t permitted in schools either, but they are permitted in some homes, including mine. Would a student at Albert Einstein High School be disciplined for showing a toy gun? How about a realistic toy gun he said was a real gun?

Let’s think of all the things a student might do or show online that are legal and harmless in a home that would be forbidden and would justify discipline within the school. Showing a knife? A crossbow? A bow and arrow? How about just an arrow? A political T-shirt? An IUD?

What if the student said, “I’m not wearing any pants”? Would it make any difference whether he was or not, if the reality wasn’t visible to other viewers? Could the school discipline the student as if he weren’t wearing his pants in school?

If schools don’t commence  distance learning with specific rules and guidelines the students’ families must agree to in order to participate, it is unethical for them make up rules as they go along and assume they have the power to enforce them. Schools certainly should not be permitted to assume that anything that isn’t permitted in the school is suddenly impermissible in a student’s home.

And once again I ask, where is the ACLU? It is disgracing itself by its silence as state agencies and authorities assume they can trample on individual rights. Are these issues too difficult? Too controversial? Do they endanger fundraising? There is no justification for its silence.

16 thoughts on “Distance Learning Ethics: A Student Shows A Gun From His Home, And The School Freaks Out

  1. I would say that this basically is an extension of the human rights abuses that have become more brazenly carried out under the cover of the pandemic.
    The school thinks it can determine for people what happens in their homes for the exact same reasons that the government thinks it is its place to determine for people what health choices they are supposed to take….

  2. Well, let’s see, that was an image of a gun projected over digital media, so if an image of a gun is prohibited in the school, then they better get busy going through their entire print library, their digital library, and their textbooks, and excise all images of guns. It would be terrible if a student accidentally saw a gun in any of those media. Might take some time, but apparently that would not be a concern.

  3. The ACLU is too busy polishing up their implementation of Rules for Radicals to be bothered by actual rights violations. 5 will get you 10 the gun showing student is not from a recognized victim status group. Those are the only people who get ACLU resources these days. Power to the correct people!

    • I was going to say the,ACLU has formally shifted its focus to advancing progressive issues. Ira Glaser has gone on record lamenting this shift in ideology.

      Thus, the ACLU IS DEAD.

      I would say that this opens the door for a new civil liberties protection organization.

  4. As much as I admire and respect good teachers, anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with public school systems knows that they often have at least a few petty tyrants in administrative positions. Those people generally make school -and life- harder for classroom teachers, students and parents. The vague reporting on this incident and the lack of context about how the firearm was displayed are clear indications to me that there was really no threat or even a perceived threat. It seems likely to me that this is a knee-jerk “control spasm” from some school official in withdrawal from having no actual students in school to boss around. I am a strong advocate for discipline and order in schools, but using distance learning as a venue to extend their control into the home should have parents telling school officials to shove off, or to go pound virtual sand….

  5. I am privy to the school side of this learn-at-home equation. The comments here today tell it straight and cover many pieces of this new phenomenon.
    The attempts to herd, corral and enforce in my large, urban district focus on “getting the kids engaged” in online learning, but, given the middling quality of the work, the real goal seems to be to have a reasonable facsimile of an attendance sheet at the end of the day. That, of course, is the way they justify their existence. Seats in the chairs. And now, faces at the cameras and thumbs up.
    On Monday, the superintendent claimed to news media that we were in contact with “about 99%” of the students. Far from true!
    And, yes, with it comes an instant invasion of home privacy, and the countless nitwits in the school districts will take the opportunity to do some damage.

    • I bet not one news reporter asked about that 99% statistic.

      It said contact. Does that mean the school sent out letters to 99% of students once or do they have students engaged daily at 99% of the historical attendance rate.

      I am beginning to believe that the statistics course they took in college was a prerequisite for Information Obfuscation 101.

    • I strongly doubt that they have “contact with 99% of students” when school is in normal session with actual physical attendance.

      This is supporting evidence for those who think sending ones’ children to public school is a form of child abuse.
      .

  6. Agree that ACLU is dead, unless left-wing political issues are at risk. A loss. This is the organization that supported the right of American Nazis to march through a primarily Jewish neighborhood, citing free speech? Everything, everyone politicized now.

  7. Jack, Jack, Jack. Come on, buddy. Where’s the ACLU? The ACLU does not recognize Amendment Number 2. Forget it, it’s Chinatown. There’s no right to bear arms. Next question.

  8. Gboyinde Onijala told local news media that the school system is not going to tolerate anything online they wouldn’t allow in the classroom.

    I encourage all students to quote him on that when they bring their pets to school once the quarantine is over.

  9. In the past, Vice-Principals have even searched student vehicles that were off-campus. The one I was still able to find was eventually overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, but I remember one case years ago where the vice-principal took some police officers to a student’s house and they searched his vehicle in his driveway during school hours. The Supreme Court has never been able to find the Fourth Amendment rights of students when asked to look for them. They have allowed schools to essentially write their own search warrants, conduct searches, and turn over evidence to the police for prosecution. This has led the schools to believe that they are the law and students must do whatever they say, whenever they say it. The demands by ‘society’ to punish students for unpopular social media posts has just expanded their power. Don’t be surprised if this latest infringement by the schools is upheld.

    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2013/05/neb_court_rejects_off-campus_s.html

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