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In California, gun hysteria has reached such fanatical heights that teachers now feel empowered to confiscate student property, disregard their privacy, question their mental state and threaten police action – in front of other students. All have happened to the son of actor and entrepreneur Joseph C. Phillips, at El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, CA.
Phillips, best known for his role as Lt. Martin Kendall on The Cosby Show, lives with his wife and three sons in the San Fernando Valley. In addition to being a regular fill-in host for Larry Elder on KABC radio in Los Angeles, he owns Daddy J's Wingshack, where his 15-year-old son works and earned the money for an Airsoft bb gun. Last week his son brought a digital camera to school to show his friends a picture of the Airsoft.
On my radio show Saturday, Phillips explained that as his son was showing off the single photo, his Social Studies teacher, a Mr. James DeLarme, walked by. As his son described the incident, DeLarme "snatched" the camera out of his hand and asked him about the photo. When his son explained that it was a picture of an Airsoft bb gun, DeLarme declared the police would have to be notified and promptly left the room to confer with another teacher. The two teachers scrolled through all the photos on the camera, finally handing it back to the boy. Then, in front of all the students, DeLarme asked him, "Do you have any animosity towards your classmates?" and "Are you angry at anyone at school?"
Listen to the full interview here.
The school never notified Phillips or his wife. He learned about the incident from his son five days later. Phillips is livid:
…I'm not sure he's qualified to teach social studies. He certainly isn't qualified to psychoanalyze my kid. Looking through the photographs…what are they looking for? What are they qualified to determine by any other images on this camera? Tony, it is ridiculous.
It turns out that DeLarme has been public about his opposition to gun ownership. In an interview with the school paper, The King's Courier, in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, he said "…our country's position on gun control and violence is what makes such situations probable."
Phillips spoke of the current anti-gun hysteria:
You see, Tony, and this is the reason I called you… I know there is sensitivity now about children coming into the school, shooting up their classmates. I get that. But at a certain point, people have to stand up and say "Enough with the hysteria! Enough is enough!" We are not going to sacrifice the dignity of our children, our own dignity… What they (the school) did is not keeping anyone safe.
Furious at the way his son had been treated, Phillips wrote a letter to the principal, Mr. David Fehte:
It may come as a shock to Mr. DeLarme, It may even be news to you, but my son is not the only boy in Woodland Hills with a BB gun. There are quite a few boys attending your school who not only own BB guns, but own real guns as well. (Some of them play air soft with my son!) Their fathers, mothers, and brothers also own guns and shoot regularly. Owning a gun is NOT a sign of mental illness. Owning a BB gun is NOT an indication of mental instability! Certainly, showing friends a photograph of a gun is NOT a warning sign that a student is a potential danger to his classmates! I object, in the strongest of terms, to my son being treated as a potential danger and to his being threatened with law enforcement. I further object to not being notified! If Mr. DeLarme truly believed my son presented a danger, both my wife and I should have been notified immediately!
Rather than respond himself, Fehte dispatched a vice principal to answer Phillips' letter. The vice-principal claimed, according to Phillips, that the teacher had done the right thing to, "secure the safety of the 3,000 students and the 250 faculty members at the school." Secure their safety from what? A photo?
One wonders how many other El Camino Real High School students are being threatened and humiliated by their teachers, and how many parents are likewise uninformed.
This column originally appeared on www.tonykatz.com