Parent files lawsuit over school ban after Facebook photo of weapons permit

A parent volunteer banned from her daughter’s school after posting a photo of her concealed weapons permit on Facebook filed a lawsuit against the Richmond County Board of Education in federal court Thursday.

Tanya Mount believes school officials violated her Constitutional right to bear arms by issuing her a criminal trespass warning at McBean Elementary School on Oct. 23, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

School officials, however, said it was Mount’s worrisome behavior leading up to the photo, not the photo alone, that prompted them to ban her from the campus.

“A person that has a permit to carry a weapon, if they post it on Facebook, we don’t care,” said Deputy Superintendent Tim Spivey. “It was her behavior that alarmed us that triggered the reaction from the principal.”

According to the lawsuit, Mount posted a photo on Facebook after obtaining her Georgia Weapons Carry License on Oct. 16 because she was excited to share the news with her friends from New Jersey, where gun laws are more strict.

She was called to School Safety and Security Capt. Ted Brown’s office Oct. 23, and informed that she was banned from the McBean campus and would be arrested if she trespassed, the lawsuit states.

Spivey said McBean Principal Janina Dallas had been growing nervous about Mount’s behavior because there were times she was found walking around campus unannounced. Spivey said Mount would also wander from assigned volunteer tasks into unauthorized areas and made “inappropriate comments” when Dallas tried to explain the visitor sign-in rules.

Because she couldn’t stay as involved in her daughter’s education at McBean with the ban, Spivey authorized a transfer to Goshen Elementary School, where Mount has no restrictions.

John Monroe, a gun-rights attorney representing Mount, said he believes the ban was prompted solely on the Facebook photo and may have also had to do with Mount’s status as an Army veteran.

“The fact that the school system would take some action against somebody for something they posted on social media is ludicrous,” Monroe said.

After local TV news media ran a story about Mount’s situation last week, board of education officials received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from gun rights activists across the nation.

Spivey said a soldier called his office from Afghanistan on Thursday to complain. Another e-mail he received called school officials “Muslim lovers” and said the administrators “lacked brain cells.”

“I’m glad the mother was able to transfer her child to another school,” wrote Connor Goodwolf of Columbus, Ohio. “I wouldn’t want my kid around someone who is a ballistic fear mongering idiot who shames law abiding veterans.”

“You try that garbage in Texas and I would sue you until the district was broke,” David Hips of Van Alstyne, Texas, wrote in an e-mail to school officials.

Mount did not respond to a request for comment and instead spoke through her attorney. However, former Richmond County Council of PTAs President Monique Braswell said parents are often banned from local schools for frivolous reasons, and this is one of them.

“They need to just say ‘We overreacted, we made a mistake,’ ” Braswell said. “Parents would have accepted an apology.”

However Spivey said in an age of school shootings, violence and tragedy, administrators can’t take chances when it comes to student safety. He said the McBean principal had reason to be nervous and acted reasonably.

“We want kids to be safe,” he said. “If we didn’t do something and this lady had a meltdown and anybody knew we had some idea there was a problem ... it would be ‘Here we go again.’ ”

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