NRA says Lacey schools made teen take down ‘gun’ bumper sticker
LACEY — The New Jersey chapter of the NRA is threatening an Ocean County school district with a second lawsuit — this time, after it says a student was ordered to take down a bumper sticker featuring an image of a gun.
The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs sent a letter threatening the lawsuit to Lacey Township school superintendent Craig Wigley on Monday.
ANJRPC executive director Scott Bach said the vehicle was parked on school property and the student, whose identity was not disclosed, was threatened with disciplinary action if he did not remove the sticker from his car. 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, and no wording.
"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 ground, these violations will not be tolerated," reads the letter.
ANJRPC had issued a legal warning Thursday after finding a Lacey High School parent/student handbook passage that prohibited students from using guns not only on school grounds, but away from school as well. The policy was quietly changed soon after, though school officials say that change wasn't prompted by the gun rights group's threat.
Attention had been drawn to the policy after community members said a student was disciplined for posting a picture at a gun range, with the message "fun day at the range." School officials haven't commented on that incident, beyond saying that rumors spread on social media were inaccurate — though they haven't said how.
Some posts on Lacey-based Facebook groups include screenshots that appear to be the student discussing a multi-day detention for posting the picture from the range.
Superintendent Craig Wigley in a message to parents Friday said the district's handbook would be updated to clarify one of its policies against students' interactions with weapons off school grounds — though the members of the NRA group say he was addressing a different policy than the one they took issue with.
The student handbook passage, unlike some other policy documents by the district, hadn't clarified its only "unlawful" conduct with weapons off school grounds would be subject to discipline.
The superintendent said at the time "no rights were violated" by the district, though he also said he can't address students' individual cases.
In its letter about the sticker, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs demands the school rescind its prohibition of the sticker, issue a written apology to the student and the student's family, and provide assurances that "similar violations" will not take place in the future.
"I have no comment on any correspondence you may have received that may have potential litigation," Wigley wrote in an email to New Jersey 101.5 Monday.
Residents planned to attend a Board of Education meeting at Lacey Township High School on Monday night to address the district's handling of the incidents.
Wigley told New Jersey 101.5 before the second lawsuit threat that the change in the handbook policy was "100 percent not related to any incident with our students. It has nothing to use with the legal use of weapons for any of our students or anyone. It's irrelevant to the conversation."
The superintendent said the change was made after a review of the handbook by the Lacey Township High School principal and after several students raised concerns.
"The language was cleaned up to bring it more in line with 5611, the policy that drives the handbook," Wigley said.
"It's irrelevant in this case. It's irrelevant in the the discussion because everyone is leaning their hat on that we've done something and suspended students for going to a rifle range. That is false. 100 percent false. But it doesn't matter now. People just found a scapegoat and a pulpit and it's sad. Very sad," Wigley said.
As for the picture at the gun range, Wigley said that he would not discuss a confidential student matter and said he is protecting the same privacy rights that people are arguing about.
"We're always going to act safety-consciously for all of our students and our families here. The pressure and allegations and rush to judgement on what did or did not happen really is left for that private confidential matter between families and themselves," Wigley said.