Scott Shoemaker was flooded with messages of support, death threats and offers from attorneys because of a viral internet post claiming his son was suspended for refusing to join a national walkout March 14 to protest gun violence in schools.
A photo of a Hilliard City Schools suspension slip made its away around Twitter and Facebook – along with Shoemaker’s name and phone number.
The now-viral story is false, district leaders said. Shoemaker says that the story is partially true, but not in the way the sharers are trying to spin it.
“There are a lot of groups out there that are using this to push an agenda, and I don’t appreciate that,” said Shoemaker, whose son Jacob, a Hilliard Davidson High School senior, was suspended.
On Twitter, users are sending around the photo with such hashtags as #GunControlNever, #Indoctrination, #LiberalismIsAMentalDisorder. One retweeter said, “George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian society ruled by government.” Another commented, “Penalized for not falling in line with Marxist social engineering?”
Jacob Shoemaker said he felt as though he would be making a political statement about guns by walking out, his father said, but he also would be making one if he stayed in and allowed himself to be sent to wherever the nonprotesters were being rounded up in the building.
Being “middle of the road” politically, he didn’t want to make either statement, Shoemaker said.
Jacob told his father March 13 that he felt like other students and, to some extent, school officials were pressuring him. Each side was judging the other.
“The biggest problem, Dad, is that there shouldn’t be politics in the classroom. ... I may just sit in my seat. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the least intrusive of the choices I’ve been given,” Jacob said, according to his father.
The boy also told him that he was far from the only student who felt that way.
Shoemaker told his son that he supported whatever decision he made, but he should know there might be consequences.
So Jacob stayed in his seat. About an hour after his lone act of civil disobedience, he was handed the out-of-school suspension for March 15.
“He stayed in the classroom, where he was supposed to be in the first place,” Shoemaker said. “It’s kind of ironic.”
The slip in the photograph says, “Student refused to follow instructions after being warned repeatedly by several administrators. Student not permitted on school property 24 hours.”
District spokeswoman Stacie Raterman was prohibited by federal student privacy laws from saying whether Jacob was punished for anything or what that offense would be. She did confirm that the suspension slip in the photo is a real one.
“I can say that our students were given two options: one, attend the gathering or two, have a study hall,” Raterman said in an email. “We are responsible for the safety of our students; we can’t allow students to be unsupervised. The study hall was our way of making sure our students were safe and supervised.
“In any situation,” she continued, “we would explain to a student the choices and explain what the consequences would be if they chose a different option. We would never blindside a student with a suspension without having a purposeful conversation ahead of time.”
Shoemaker said Jacob photographed the suspension slip and sent it to his friends, one of whom shared it online. That teen likely didn’t imagine that it would be picked up and shared thousands of times.
Nor did that friend consider that Mr. Shoemaker’s name and phone number were on it.
Voicemails and texts flooded in since the wee hours March 15, from haters and supporters alike, he said. Shoemaker said he might have to change the number if it didn’t die down.
Hilliard school officials experienced their share of grief on March 15, too.
“We purposely let these students create these events to allow students to mourn and to avoid the politics, and now here we are getting taken to task for this,” Raterman said. “It’s a bit of a shame.”
This story originally was published on dispatch.com.