According to Fox News, on Monday, Feb. 4, teenager Daniel McClaine Jr. of Florence, Arizona was allowed to return to his classes after his school lifted the three-day suspension he had received for displaying an iconic image of an AK-47 on top of a flag as wallpaper on his school-issued laptop.
The high school freshman was caught up in the school's "zero tolerance" policy and initially suspended until Wednesday of this week.The policy doesn't take into account that not all teens are focused on celebrity icons. External stimuli of all kinds attract teens as they develop into young adults. Thus, AK-47s and combat heroes may be icons to kids who hope to join the military.
Daniel respectfully defended himself, saying the picture of the gun was never intended to be menacing, but actually represented his budding interest in joining the military and serving his country. Online, the Arizona Hellandback Firearms website ranks the AK-47 as the first of ten favorite military combat rifles. Since photos of the rifle have become a near symbol of the military culture, the image may be a natural icon for Daniel and other teens who are considering a career in the military.
Currently, according to Wikipedia, there are over 3,ooo nationwide Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) units actively training and preparing young high school cadets for leadership roles, if not military careers, after graduation. Two-thirds of those units offer training in marksmanship. It's likely some of those teens might collect photos and posters of weapons common to the military.
General Colin Powell commended the JROTC in his autobiography, writing, "The armed forces might get a youngster more inclined to enlist," as a result of the federal program. Powell further claimed, "Inner-city kids, many from broken homes, found stability and role models in Junior ROTC." Colin Powell graduated at the top of his ROTC class in 1958 with the rank of cadet colonel, the highest rank in the corps.
Although Daniel is not a member of the JROTC, it is not a reach to posit the possibility that JROTC members might be similarly punished for having a picture of a weapon at the same campus which bombards them with the stimuli which encourages their interest. Amid the current political debate for gun control, critics perceive Daniel as an unwitting victim of a climate of anti-gun advocacy.
The reactions of many concerned parents to the way the school handled this mirror the response of Daniel's dad. He was quoted by ABC questioning whether, even in the shadow of the grief and fear lingering from the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the school seriously overreacted. According to Daniel McClaine Sr. his son "should have got a warning. He shouldn't have ever been suspended."