On Friday a young couple, Tito Velez and Jamie Pereira, were preparing to go to a school dance, and as usual, mom and dad broke out the camera and took a few pictures of the cute couple. During the impromptu photo shoot, someone decided to take a couple of pictures with the kids holding some Airsoft toy guns. A little later, the kids went to the dance and had an uneventful evening just making happy memories.
On Monday school officials of, Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School in Taunton, MA, got wind of the picture and, about 2 PM, just prior to a cross-country track meet, the couple was called into the school office. Both minors were questioned by school officials, split up and the police were called. The parents were not notified, nor was there any kind of child advocate at the scene. When the kids asked to call their parents, school officials told them to “be quite”. Police finally showed up and the young man and woman were searched along with their lockers and book bags. Nothing was found. The officers “talked” to the students, again without benefit of counsel or parents.
What crime had this modern day Bonnie and Clyde committed? Had they knocked over a vending machine or maybe robbed the school lunch program? No, their only “crime”, was that they posted the picture of them cheesing it up with the plastic toy guns on their Facebook page. Did they look menacing, or mad, or make any threating remarks? Nope, just posted a picture with her smiling and him standing next to her, along with other pictures the boy’s father had taken. Maybe the pictures were taken in front of the school or even in front of the principal’s house? Nope they were taken in their own home with their proud parents looking on.
Tito enjoys the hobby of Air Soft, a sport where teams play “capture the flag” with the added incentive of not getting shot by a soft rubber BB. The game is similar to paintball, but the projectiles don’t explode or hurt as much when you get hit. Players wear protective clothing and face shields. And if you look at his Facebook page you will see picture after picture of a normal American Boy with his friends enjoying his hobby.
So after all the questioning and intimidation by the police and school officials, they arrived at the truth, there was no threat. So, you know that they apologized to the young couple right? Of course they didn’t.
In fact, they suspended them both from school, even though both had been searched and neither had any weapons, nor had they made any threats against anyone or broken any laws. All they did was pose for a few campy pictures that dad took. For this major crime, they received a summary 10 day suspension. In addition they now have an appointment with the School Board at the end of that time so it can decide if they will be tossed out permanently for their actions.
While we all agree that the safety of our children must be a priority in these times and school officials must exercise all due care in executing their responsibilities to that end, at what point do we draw the line between state intervention into our personal lives and public safety? Maybe the school should have brought them in and asked them if they were having any problems, or if they were angry about something. Maybe they should have even searched their lockers and backpacks just to make sure everything was okay. After all, the courts have ruled that they have that right. But to subject them to the interrogation by police officers and invade their personal lives over a picture that shows two happy kids getting ready for a fun night is a little beyond even the rights granted to a liberal school system. These people need to get a life and a brain and read the Constitution.
I have tried to contact the school, Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School in Taunton, MA, and its superintendent, Dr. Richard W. Gross and Principal Carolyn Pearson, several times, but my calls have not been returned, and now their phone goes right to voicemail. This is a story we all need to be upset about and take action on. Please share it and if possible put in a call to Dr. Gross or Principal Pearson at (508) 823-5151 or send them a fax at (508) 822-2687. Let them know what you think of their violation of Tito and Jamie’s Constitutional Rights and their overreach of authority into the private, off school activities, of two students. I think it is worth a minute of your phone time.
Remember, this could have been your child or grandchild that is being punished for doing nothing wrong. If it was, how would you feel and would you pick up a telephone to complain about it then? If you prefer, you could also send them a short note or copy of the Constitution to:
Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School
207 Hart Street
Taunton, MA 02780