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Sophomore’s actions invoke soft lockdown, hard consequences

Joshua Irvine

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Update 2: Maciej Brzezicki passed both the risk assessment and drug test required of him.  He returned to school in January.

Editor’s Note: Previous versions of the story included a phrase apparently derogatory towards yearbook.  This was an editing error that was not noticed until publication.  The phrase has been altered in this edition of the story.


When the school went into soft lockdown in mid-September, sophomore Maciej Brzezicki was as clueless as to everyone else as to what was happening. The soft lockdown itself was an oddity, a grey zone state of alert that didn’t merit the routine drill or fear of a hard lockdown.

Things got weirder when dean of students Matt Norris and school police liason [Arlington Heights officer] Pete Hamrick entered the classroom; Brzezicki described Hamrick’s demeanor as anxious (School officials were unable to comment for this story due to laws regarding student privacy).

And then Norris and Hamrick told Brzezicki he was coming with them.

Despite the rumors that would follow that day, Brzezicki wants students to know he was not a drug dealer. He was not being sent to a juvenile detention center, as others alleged. And he didn’t have a gun stuffed in his backpack.

The only thing he was was the victim of a bad joke – his own. And it was a joke that would cost him a semester with his peers and his school, and could have cost him a lot more.

Nearly a month after that incident, on Oct. 12, Maciej and his sister, senior Anna Brzezicki, sat down to explain the series of events that led up to and followed that soft lockdown in September.

Brzezicki now attends Schaumburg’s Ombudsman school, which he describes as for, “kids that are mess ups in life.”

He’s barred from D214 grounds for the remainder of the semester at a minimum.

At Hersey, Brzezicki has only one disciplinary infraction on record, for having once hidden his teacher’s iPad atop the bleachers during freshman gym. He was a member of the football and track teams and SOS, as well as yearbook, where he was taken from class.

The events that would take all of that away from him began roughly two weeks earlier, when Brzezicki sent a Snapchat image to several friends, including his sister. The image featured Brzezicki holding a black plastic airsoft gun resembling an assault rifle, except for the bright orange tip on the gun’s barrel. The caption on the Snap read “Hersey ain’t ready for this.”

To the casual observer, it might have seemed like a threat, but Brzezicki’s friends knew his brand of humor. One of his friends, a Buffalo Grove High School sophomore, screenshotted the image.

His sister points out that Brzezicki did not intend for the image to spread beyond those individuals. “He didn’t publicly post it,” A Brzezicki said. “His involvement ended after he sent the Snapchat.”

But the image’s destructive journey was just beginning. On Sept 12, the Buffalo Grove sophomore posted the screenshot to one of his Instagram accounts, including lyrics from Tay-K’s “I Love My Choppa” in the Instagram caption. According to both Brzezickis, Instagram’s preset photo cropping settings removed the orange tip of the airsoft gun from the photo.

Brzezicki identified the posting of his modified photo as to where concern began. “Some person from Buffalo Grove was on his spam account, and apparently one of his parents saw, and saw it as like a threat,” he said.

That parent reported the photo to Buffalo Grove High School’s administration, who, after consulting with Buffalo Grove sophomore, informed the Hersey deans of the photo and its subject. Buffalo Grove sophomore was subsequently told to delete the photo from his Instagram account, but a record of the Instagram image was kept.

It’s unclear how long it took for the administration to become aware of the Instagram post, or when the decision was made to act, but Brzezicki had been detained by the end of first period on Sept 14.

After Brzezicki was taken from his classroom by Norris and Hamrick, he was patted down and had his backpack searched by the officer. During this time, police officers were dispatched to search the Brzezicki home. After locating the BB gun in the picture and determining there were no other weapons in the household, one of the officers returned to Hersey at around 10 a.m. and arrested Brzezicki.

He was handcuffed outside the school and taken to the police station, where he remained until his release around 2:30 in the afternoon.

He was suspended for 10 school days, though Brzezicki was not immediately informed of this. “We found that out later, after my parents went to go retrieve my phone [from Hersey],” he explained.

Brzezicki faced charges for the events surrounding the photo. In addition, he faced accusations of drug use based on images found on his phone and a canister of vape fluid found in his backpack.

His case was argued on two occasions. The first hearing on Sept. 25 was between a hearing officer for District 214, the deans, a pair of attorneys, the Brzezickis, their lawyer, and “acknowledged” character witnesses including Anna and the Buffalo Grove sophomore. The statements by the character witnesses were not considered testimony.

The hearing officer’s job was to file a report to the Board that would be used to decide Brzezicki’s sentence.

A. Brzezicki was critical of the hearing report, arguing it did not present sufficient defense of her brother. “We were really disappointed when we got the summary,” A. Brzezicki said.

In that hearing, the deans recommended that Brzezicki be removed from District 214 for two years – the maximum sentence possible.

The D214 board was set to decide three days later, on Sept. 28. A similar audience to the Sept. 25 hearing was in attendance, with the addition of Principal Gordon Sisson and the exception of dean Norris.

Brzezicki’s case was argued again based on the hearing report and additional testimony by the Brzezicki family. The board initially chose to bar Brzezicki from D214 for a year; his lawyer managed to convince them to reduce the sentence to one semester, provided Brzezicki passed both a drug test and a risk evaluation.

Both Brzezicki students are still sour over the treatment of the case by the school and district administration. Though they took exemption with Principal Sisson, characterizing him as A. Brzezicki said,”one of the only sympathetic people we met in the whole process.”

Brzezicki took both the risk and drug test earlier this month; he is still awaiting the results.

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Joshua Irvine, Editor-in-Chief, CorrespondentLive

Senior Joshua Irvine is the film critic, staff cartoonist and an editor-in-chief of CorrespondentLive and has served on staff since 2015.  He has received...

1 Comment

One Response to “Sophomore’s actions invoke soft lockdown, hard consequences”

  1. Maciej Brzezicki on November 10th, 2017 11:10 am

    Great article, and I am looking forward to coming back second semester, I got both results back now and I passed both tests required of me to come back to Hersey.

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Sophomore’s actions invoke soft lockdown, hard consequences