“I’m just sad because I thought the teachers were my friends.” That is what 11-year-old Jackson said after police searched his room in response to a call a school safety officer at Seneca Elementary school made earlier this month.
Courtney Lancaster, mother of Jackson, said the school safety officer called the police because a concerned parent and two teachers saw Jackson’s BB guns mounted on his wall in his bedroom during a Google Meet Class, took a screenshot of Jackson and notified Seneca Elementary Principal, Jason Feiler, about Jackson’s BB guns.
Lancaster said when the police showed up she was taken off guard and that even though they didn’t have a warrant to search her home, she agreed to let them in.
“I have always been taught to comply and I had nothing to hide and allowed them to look wherever they wanted to,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster said the police officers searched her home for about 20 minutes and found no violations and left without any further action.
“The officers that responded were appalled at the call and even commended the set up that my son has for his toys and commended him also on his respect and understanding of the BB guns,” Lancaster said.
“He is a boy scout. He is an outdoors, all-boy kind of kid and as his parents and by way of legal rights, he is allowed to own said guns. He is in his own home supervised by a parent.”
Lancaster said after the police left she reached out to the school and to the Baltimore County School Board to find out why nobody called her first before notifying police.
“The Principal and his teacher cited that ‘just as he cannot bring guns to school, he cannot bring them to virtual meetings as well and this is in the handbook,’” Lancaster said.
After a close review of the handbook, Lancaster said it did not address anything regarding virtual learning.
“Not to mention, he did not bring anything to this meeting and he is in his own home. [The BB guns] were simply in the background in our home, safely stowed in a room behind a closed door, with no ammunition, if you can even call it that,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster also asked BCPS if she could see the screenshot that was taken with her son. She said she was told that she could not see the photo because it’s not part of his student record.
Now she said her and Jackson both feel “extremely violated.”
“Screenshots are being taken of minor children in their bedrooms? How is this ok? I never consented to that,” Lancaster said.
The Avenue reached out to BCPS for comment. The communications department responded by saying, “our longstanding policy is to not debate individual circumstances through the media. There are multiple ways for families to share concerns with us. In general terms, the safety of students and staff is our chief concern, whether we are meeting in classrooms or via continuity of learning.”
Lancaster said moving forward she hopes other people will learn from her experience and avoid having to go through what her and her son did with the school system and the police.
“Virtual learning may work well for you, but make sure nothing in your home offends anyone and you may spend the next couple of weeks circumventing the invasion and violation that I did today. My child and my home will no longer be subjected to video to allow room for any other violation of my rights and how I legally manage my home.”