Lacey parents to schools on kids’ guns — ‘Stay out of my life’
LACEY — Parent after parent spoke to the school board Monday night about two students who community members say were punished for posting a picture from a gun range online.
Frustration grew as parents brought up the in-school suspension numerous times, even after board attorney Christopher Supsie told the crowd inside a packed Lacey Township High School auditorium the board would not address the punishment directly, citing student confidentiality. Board members listened quietly at a long table on stage as residents expressed their frustration at the situation, according to Jersey Shore Online.
School officials haven't confirmed any details of the discipline against two students. Instead, community members have shared accounts they say come from the family, and posts in the Lacey Township Chatter Facebook group have included screenshots that appear to be from a student describing his punishment.
According to descriptions shared in that group and elsewhere, the students had posted a photo of rifles and magazines with the caption "fun day at the range," but no threatening language. School officials have said the social media accounts are inaccurate, but have declined to say how.
"I want to be an advocate for those students," parent Amanda Buron told the board, saying the school should not have the right to discipline what students do outside of school. She described the punishment as a violation of their First and Second Amendment rights.
Her young daughter stood next to her, holding a sign that read "your policies disrupt the climate of our civil rights," as she spoke.
The district late last week changed a handbook policy that ostensibly prohibited students from handling guns off school grounds. Though it had been threatened with legal action by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs — a New Jersey NRA chapter — district officials told New Jersey 101.5 the change was already in the works.
The handbook policy had prohibited students from using guns not only on school grounds, but away from school. Other district policy documents, however, noted that only "unlawful" weapons conduct off school grounds was subject to school discipline.
The criticism of the handbook policy and the suspension was nearly nonstop from the crowd in the auditorium.
"Where did we give up that right to be a parent?" resident and parent Fiorde Monda asked, concerned that the board’s ability to discipline the students both on and off campus impedes a parent’s right to discipline his or her own child.
"I would like to see some amendment in those guidelines to stay out of my life unless my kid is hurting your school, our school," resident and parent Dale Hawk said.
"I would like to see the board admit that they made an error and they’ve done something they shouldn’t have," resident and parent Frank Horvath said.
Supsie said that the handbook policy had been changed because of significant concerns over the rights of students within the district. The language in the handbook aligns the school’s actions with the Safe Schools Initiative, which outlines a zero-tolerance weapons policy, signaling the need for harsher measures, according to the attorney.
Superintendent Craig Wigley earlier told New Jersey 101.5 that the principal of Lacey Township High School and students brought their concerns to his attention, and that it was not related to the threat of a lawsuit by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, the New Jersey chapter of the NRA.
"The handbook policy was cleaned up this past week to bring it more in line with 5611, the policy that drives the handbook," Wigley said.
Resident Ed Cardinal told the board it was his son who was told to remove a sticker of a rifle from his vehicle. An image of the sticker sent to New Jersey 101.5 shows it to be in the outline of a gun, filled in with a camouflage-style pattern, with no wording.
He also said his son was later asked to remove his sweatshirt during school after a teacher referred to it as "a shooter sweatshirt."
The ANJRPC on Monday sent a second letter to Wigley, threatening a lawsuit over the sticker incident.
"This incident, along with the incident about which we wrote you last week, reveals a disturbing pattern of disregard for the Constitutional rights of students. Whether suppressing the exercise of Second Amendment rights off of school grounds or suppressing the right of free speech about firearms issues on school grounds, these violations will not be tolerated," reads the letter.
Alexander P. Roubian, director of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, took to the podium and proposed the board allow children from Lacey Township schools to go to a gun range and learn the proper way to handle a weapon. Members were agreeable to the idea, although no specifics were discussed.
This report includes reporting by Jersey Shore Online, used with permission.
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