Massachusetts Students Suspended Over Controversial Photo

The picture was taken before a homecoming dance, and school officials weren't pleased

A picture posted to Facebook is stirring up controversy at a Massachusetts high school after two high school sweethearts posed with large airsoft guns before their homecoming dance last week.

"We took them with the airsoft guns because it's our hobby, and we wanted to include them," now-suspended  Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School student Jamie Pereira said.

The guns only shoot plastic pellets, but school officials say the Middleborough teenagers, including Pereira and Tito Velez, caused a disruption at the school.

Dr. Richard Gross, superintendent of the school district, said his problem is not with the guns. He says he defends free speech, but that he takes issue with the caption below the photo that reads "Homecoming 2014."

"When you tie that to a school event, that's something to be concerned about," said Dr. Gross.

School officials say the dance Friday was uneventful, but people Monday in school were fearful and parents were concerned.

Pereira and Velez defend themselves, saying they often play with the pellet guns with friends at local fields, and that the photo was taken by Velez's dad at home on private property. In the comments below the picture, they say they made it clear the guns were fakes.

Now they're upset with what they call a 10-day suspension and how they were allegedly treated by both police and school officials before their State Cross Country meet Monday.

"We were brought into separate rooms and then questioned by a police officer without parental consent there," Pereira said.

"They took me to an empty room, searched everything I had on me, my bag, my clothes," Velez said.

The suspended students and parents are meeting with school officials to figure out what's next on Wednesday.

NECN also put a call into Taunton Police, who said they had minimal involvement in the case. 

Contact Us