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Nancy Smith

Suspended Student Who Posed with a Gun Needs to Find Herself a Better College

June 1, 2019 - 7:30am
From Dia'mon Dallas' Facebook posting
From Dia'mon Dallas' Facebook posting

A student at First Coast Technical College is suing the school after an administrator suspended her indefinitely for, of all things, posing with a handgun at a shooting range and posting the photo on Facebook.

Let's think about this for a minute.

  1. The student, Dia'mon Dallas, wasn't on or near the St. Augustine campus when this posing was going on. She was precisely where she should be. Where better to brandish a firearm than at a shooting range -- this one in Palatka?

  2. The gun was legally purchased.

  3. Dia'mon wasn't cutting class. She wasn't breaking any school rules that I could find or that anyone at the school could identify for me Friday.

  4. She was with her fiance; both were in the company of her fiance's cousin, a military veteran who was teaching them how to shoot.

I Beg to DifferSo why was Dia'mon Dallas suspended? Assistant Principal Donna Gary-Donovan, who did the suspending, has answered that ... 

Because, well, another student saw the photo online and "reported her" -- for what, is unclear -- but apparently Dia'mon's actions offended a classmate. 

Dia'mon also had "a mean look" on her face, according to Gary Donovan.

And she and her fiance, Anfernee Royster, posed together for the photo, which was posted with this caption: “She’s my Bonnie and I’m her Clyde.”

If you're Donna Gary-Donovan, apparently you have an obligation not just to pass judgment on this young student's "speech," but when you don't approve, you must punish it, too. 

So much for Dia'mon's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

On May 14 in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, she filed suit against First Coast Technical College, its principal and assistant principal. Who can blame her? Do you really think First Coast is the kind of institution of higher learning Senate President Joe Negron was talking about a couple of years ago, when he said Florida's colleges and universities could lead the nation?

Candidates for public office have made TV commercials cradling rifles or slinging shotguns over their shoulder. Gary-Donovan might be surprised to learn some of them even won. They're proud of their Second Amendment rights, even if First Coast Technical College is not.

“Some people just don’t like guns. They feel threatened by firearms. But that’s why we have constitutional protections, to protect activities that other people might find uncomfortable or unpopular,” said lawyer and state Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach, who's representing Dallas.

Absurd that Byrd has to explain that to the leaders of any institution of higher learning. Especially when you consider Donna Gary-Donovan has described herself in social media as "a passionate education leader providing innovative forward-thinking goals to facilitate successful initiatives."

The lawsuit claims the photo was “purely off-campus Facebook communication with friends.” It also said it had no connection to a “school-related activity” and therefore does not “interrupt the school environment," according to The Jacksonville Daily Record. It seeks to have the college admit it violated Dia'mon's right and will seek damages at the trial. 

I was unable Friday to reach parties on either side of the lawsuit.

Oh, yes, and incidentally: Dia'mon Dallas has been an outstanding student. “Everything has just gone down the drain," she told WJAX-TV. "I really was trying hard in school. I was making A’s.” She said, "I can't get a job and I have a baby to support. I've been out of work long enough and I wanted to do this to be able to provide for my family. And now I can't."

For my money, it's the college and its administrators who should be suspended indefinitely.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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