School rejects teen's gun-toting, flag-waving photo

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Joshua Bruner is a real-life Captain America.

The 15-year-old country boy from Ringoes, New Jersey is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. He’s a member of two state shooting teams and he serves as a United States Sea Cadet.

Darcy Meys said her son wants to follow in his great-grandfather’s footsteps and enlist in the Marines.

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“Josh considers himself to be a patriot,” she told me. “He loves his country.”

A few weeks ago Josh was given an assignment in a photography class at Hunterdon Central Regional High School. He had to take a self-portrait representing self-expression.

So Josh and some of his buddies gathered in a field behind his house and set up a tripod – striking their best male model poses.

Josh climbed atop a four-wheeler. He was holding Old Glory in one hand and a shotgun in the other – a Remington pump action 12-gauge to be precise.

It was, by all accounts, an epic picture that summed up the heart and soul of this teenage patriot.

Now, at Hunterdon Regional kids have to upload their assignments to the school’s Google site. And that’s when Josh learned there was a problem.

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His self-portrait was rejected because it violated the school’s gun policy.

“The rules of our school prohibit students from using artwork depicting themselves or another person with any weapon,” the teacher wrote to Mrs. Meys.

Mrs. Meys told me she looked at the school policy and she believes it was referring to actual guns on school property – not a photograph of a gun taken on private property.

“Josh was just showing pride for his country and who he is as a shooter and as a kid who wants to be in the Marines and protect his country and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps,” she told me. “He was not dressed inappropriately. He was not holding the gun incorrectly and He was respecting the flag.”

The school decided to offer Josh a compromise, according to email correspondence between his mother and the teacher.

But it’s really not much of a compromise.

The school agreed to grade Josh’s photograph – but they were adamant that it could not be uploaded onto the school’s server nor could it be publicly displayed.

“He will not be able to upload the image to our server, post them to his Google site or display them in his presentation,” the teacher wrote. “We would like to recognize his work on the portrait but limit the possibility that the photo can be taken out of context.”

Good Lord! It’s not pornography, people. It’s a kid holding Old Glory and a shotgun.

“They are crushing his spirit,” Mrs. Meys told me. “They are stifling his creativity.”

And for that matter – they are in effect telling this child that he cannot take pride in who he is – his identity as an American.

“If it is okay for people to show pride in their sexuality, why can’t my son show pride in his country,” she asked.

I know the answer to that question. These days Gay Pride is in vogue and American Pride is passe.

“I’m supposed to accept guys going into bathrooms with my daughters and girls going into bathrooms with my boys but they won’t accept my kid for just wanting to be a patriot,” she said.

In this age of tolerance and diversity it’s too bad our public school system can’t be more tolerant of red-blooded American patriots like Josh Bruner.