Frank Harvey, a student at Manville High School in New Jersey, says that he was suspended from school and told to undergo a psychological exam after his pro-gun project from 2015 was discovered on a computer flash drive (video below).
"I've never been a violent person," Frank told News 12 New Jersey. "I've never had detention in my life."
Frank, who is a senior, said that he was assigned a video project to oppose gun control laws during his junior year.
"It was assigned by the teacher, and I got the topic, which was anti-gun control, approved by the teacher," Frank added.
Frank's video noted instances in which people used firearms to stop criminals, promoted self-defense with guns and used published political cartoons that argued against so-called gun free zones.
According to Frank, he left his thumb drive, which included his 2015 project, in the school computer lab on Sept. 26. An unidentified person found it, apparently looked through it and notified school officials. The police were called, and officers questioned Frank, but did not charge the teen.
Frank said that he was suspended by the Manville School District, and told that he had to pass a five-hour psychological exam before coming back to school, which doesn't sit well with his mom.
Frank's mother, Mary Vervan, told the news station: "I'm not taking him for a psychological evaluation because this teacher is lying and won't own up to what she did. Basically the teacher assigned it, my son did his homework and he got kicked out of school for it."
According to Frank, the teacher said that she couldn't recall the assignment from 2015.
Manville school superintendent Anne Facendo replied to News 12 New Jersey: "The school district is not at liberty to make comment on any issue pertaining to confidential student information."
However, Facendo decided to issue a statement to NJ.com in which she blamed Harvey and his mother for taking advantage of state and federal laws that supposedly prevent from Facendo commenting:
We believe the student's family is aware of this, and are taking advantage of those laws to publicize a blatantly false, one-sided account of what occurred. Under their version of events, the student was given a disciplinary suspension for merely completing a school project assigned by his teacher that expressed an unpopular viewpoint, then was required to disenroll from the district.
These claims are false, and we are confident that the evidence will support the district's position. The district is especially disheartened at the unfair personal attacks leveled by the family at our dedicated staff, who reacted to the actual events with professionalism and concern for the welfare of this student and others in the school community.
We have nothing more to say on the matter at this time, but could not let the family's vicious personal attacks go unanswered.
It's not clear what federal or state laws that Facendo was referring to, but The Huffington Post noted in February that some schools misuse the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal privacy law that only applies to "educational records," as a censorship excuse "when explaining to journalists why it can’t say anything about a student’s misconduct or disciplinary case."
Back in New Jersey, Frank told NJ.com that he was given a school withdrawal document to sign on Sept. 27, and that school officials did not meet with him or his mother regarding the situation.
Vervan said that a social worker from a local child protective services organization came by their home on Sept. 28, which Vervan described as a retaliatory act and harassment by the school for her and her son's comments to the media.
The social worker would not answer questions from NJ.com, but Frank told the news site:
I'm disappointed that this has become an issue. I'm not a violent person. I've never been in trouble in my life. I'm surprised my project is being considered such a horrible thing. Everyone I've spoken to feels the same way. They see my point entirely. I cleared the topic with the teacher.
There were other students who did presentations for and against gun control. To my knowledge, none of them got suspended or got kicked out of school.
NJ.com posted Harvey's video, which is not violent or threatening, although it is pro-gun which some may consider politically charged.