OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A Baltimore family got a surprise visit from the police after someone noticed a fifth-grader’s BB gun in the background during a virtual school session.
Courtney Lancaster is a Navy veteran with extensive knowledge on guns and gun safety. Her 11-year-old son is an aspiring Eagle Scout who has learned to shoot BB and Airsoft guns as well as taken archery lessons.
They’d never had an issue until the cops unexpectedly showed up one day.
“So, I answered the door. The police officer was, he was very nice. He explained to me that he was coming to address an issue with my son’s school,” Courtney told Project Baltimore. “And then explained to me that he was here to search for weapons, in my home. And I consented to let him in. And then I, unfortunately, stood there and watched police officers enter my 11-year-old son’s bedroom.”
Luckily, the police were only in the home for a short time and found no violations.
This whole incident is ridiculous, but the most ridiculous part? The principal initially compared bringing a weapon to a virtual class to bringing a gun to school.
First of all, the student didn’t “bring a weapon to a virtual class.” The BB gun was hanging on his wall, which appeared in the background of the video.
Second, this was in no way comparable to physically bringing a gun to school. Do you know why? Because there were no other students present in the vicinity of the gun. Because there was absolutely no possibility of the owner using the gun against his fellow students. Because they were all safely at their own homes.
Now, it is 2020, everything is crazy, and many people find even the image of a gun triggering. It probably would have been prudent for the family to have their elementary student virtually attend his classes from a location with a less distracting background. But–and I can’t stress this enough–neither the student nor his parents actually did anything wrong.
He was just a little boy, virtually attending school from his bedroom. Someone else (probably the teacher or another parent) saw something they didn’t like in the background, took a screenshot, and called the police.
Oh, by the way, Ms. Lancaster hasn’t been allowed to see the “incriminating” screenshot, because it’s not actually part of her son’s student record.
“It’s absolutely scary to think about,” Courtney said. “Who are on these calls? Who do we have viewing your children and subsequently taking these screenshots that can be sent anywhere or used for any purpose?”
She also called out the lack of clear policies regarding virtual learning.
“So, what are the parameters? Where are the lines drawn? If my son is sitting at the kitchen island next to a butcher block, does that constitute a weapon? It’s not allowed at school, right? So, would my home then be searched because he’s sitting next to a butcher block,” Courtney said. “I feel like parents need to be made aware of what the implications are, what the expectations are.”
She’s right. If a gun hanging on bedroom wall in the background is equivalent to bringing a gun to school, what about a kitchen knife in the background? Weapons aside, schools ban plenty of items people routinely have around their houses: some ban glass bottles, hats, cell phones. Are students being admonished if there is a hat or a perfume bottle in the background of their video?
How did we all get so sensitive and intolerant?