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Taunton Students Suspended After Posing With Airsoft Rifles On Facebook

TAUNTON (CBS) – Two high school students in Taunton have been suspended after they posted a photo of themselves holding Airsoft rifles. Thousands of people have leapt to their defense online, but their school isn't backing down.

The Airsoft rifles look dangerous, but they shoot plastic pellets. Tito Velez, 15, often competes with a team as a hobby.

Last Friday, Tito and his girlfriend Jamie Pereira posed with the Airsoft rifles before the Bristol Plymouth Regional Technical School homecoming dance. The post got them suspended from school.

"This isn't dangerous, you can't kill someone with it," Tito said Tuesday. "We didn't shoot anyone; we were pointing them at the floor."

Taunton students
Jamie Pereira and Tito Velez (WBZ-TV)

"I understand but I think they took this way too far," Jamie said. "Suspending us for 10 days and possible expulsion is way too much."

Many argue that the Facebook post is protected by the Constitution, even in light of recent school shootings. But when the teenagers put the caption "Homecoming 2014" on the photo, it tied the rifles to a school function.

"These students know what is provocative," Superintendent Dr. Richard Gross said. "To tie that to one of our school events kind of puts it over the top which brings us into it."

There's a lot to consider here: the Constitutional right to freedom of speech; yet, on the other hand, there is the implied threat whether it's real or not.

Dr. Gross says police would have cancelled the homecoming dance if they had known about the Facebook post on Friday.


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