Richmond-Burton High School student avoids expulsion after sending controversial photo

RICHMOND – Nearly 50 people showed up to the Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 Board meeting Wednesday to support a student at risk of being expelled. 

The student, a junior at Richmond-Burton High School, was described by friends and community members as a dedicated Boy Scout and band member who had made a mistake.

The student who was up for expulsion sent a Snapchat photo of himself on Oct. 5 holding a BB gun with the caption “Columbine time” to a handful of friends. Students at Wednesday’s meeting had seen the photo and the student’s father later confirmed that his son had sent it. The photo was shown to the Northwest Herald by a student. 

In the Snapchat mobile application, photos can be sent and viewed by others for a maximum of 10 seconds until they disappear. However, screenshots of the photo can be taken and saved.

The photo the student sent was saved and sent to others, eventually reaching the attention of parents and administrators. The student was suspended for 10 days, his father said, and then came before the school board for an expulsion hearing at its regular meeting.

More than 30 students at the meeting Wednesday were bandmates of the student up for expulsion, including senior Abby Mitchell. 

“We understand that it was bad,” Mitchell said. “But he’s a good kid, and we don’t want to see this just ruin him.”

Mitchell said the student is a jokester and talented pianist, and was missed in class during his suspension. While the joke should not have been made, Mitchell said, it’s not uncommon for other students to make similar mistakes, especially on social media. 

“That just goes to show it’s a really good lesson for all of us that are on social media,” Mitchell said. “… You really do have to be careful.”

Students and other community members waited in the hall outside the board meeting for about four hours while the board deliberated in closed session.

Although the crowd dwindled, the meeting opened to the public again about 11:30 p.m. Board President Steve Holtz said an agreement had been made between the board and family not to expel the student. 

“We cannot respond to anything or acknowledge any other student matter to the public,” Holtz said before opening up the public comment session.

Seven members of the public spoke in support of the family, in addition to the student’s father and sister. 

Annette Zimmer, who said she knew the family, called the process “disturbing” because of the lack of understanding the community has in how a situation like this should be handled. 

“I just hope that this is something that he can move on [from], because I don’t think he is a threat to the community,” Zimmer said.  

After the meeting, family members said they could not disclose the terms of the agreement.

“It’s wonderful the community came out in support of my son,” the student’s father said. “It’s one of those things that kids do that’s misinterpreted and stuff like that, and so we’re just glad everybody came out and gave us support.” 

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