Homecoming photo of teens holding Airsoft guns stirs controversy in Massachusetts

It's a photo full of controversy: Two students, striking a pose before heading to the homecoming dance, now facing school suspensions because of it.

The students took a picture, before the homecoming dance, at one of their houses, in their evening attire holding props. The props depicted what they say is their hobby, but the problem for them is their hobby involves airsoft guns.

The photo got two high school honor students in Taunton suspended.

Tito Velez's dad snapped the photo of his son and his girlfriend, Jamie Pereira, ahead of Friday night's homecoming dance at Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School where the two are juniors.
After some formal photos, the teens wanted to have some fun.

"We took them with the airsoft guns because it's our hobby and we wanted to include them in the pictures," Pereira said.

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The guns shoot plastic pellets and the students play games with them in designated fields – much like a paintball game.

They worked to save up for the guns and the games are a big part of their social life, they said. So they posted this picture on social media and tagged it "Homecoming 2014".

But that's when the problems began.

"It's not the guns, it's the connecting of that type of posture that type of thing to a school event," said Richard Gross, the superintendent of the high school.

And he says his students' safety is his first priority, so he asked the principal to investigate. The students say she did, along with Taunton Police, as they were boarding a bus for a cross country meet Monday.

"They wouldn't let me say what happened. They just said whatever they wanted and I couldn't say anything back," Velez said.

Velez and Pereira were handed a ten day suspension, and expulsion was even put on the table.

The teens and their parents have a meeting with school officials Wednesday to find out if they'll be expelled. That decision is up to the principal. In them meantime, they've already got a petition circulating to have the suspension reversed.

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