Gun Play In Preschool: Addressing Violence With Young Children

Gun Play In Preschool: Addressing Violence With Young Children
2-year-old students in an Evanston, IL, preschool were encouraged to use a 3 ft. x 3 ft. area of the classroom if they engaged in gun play activities.

This column, about gun play in preschool, first appeared in Evanston, Illinois on Patch.com, November 25, 2013.

If you read only one paragraph in this column, please read the last one and share it with anyone you know who hopes to put a stop to gun violence.

On November 17th, I received this Facebook message from a concerned Evanston citizen:

I just found out that a 2 year old classroom in Evanston has a specific area in their room for gun play. GUN PLAY! Here, in Evanston, where we are trying to support anti-violence...would this be of interest to anyone to write about? The director of the center supports it and I think someone is going to the board about it, but I think this should be known to people in our community. What do you think?

I responded [quite enthusiastically] to the message:

Um, HELL YES. Very, very interesting! Please tell me more...and THANK YOU for bringing this to my attention.

The citizen then sent me this email on November 18th:

The classroom is the two year old room at:

The Child Care Center of Evanston

1840 Asbury Ave. 

Evanston, IL 60201

847-869-2680

Executive Director: Lindsay Percival

A teacher in this classroom reached out to me as another early childhood educator in Evanston, for my opinion. She is appalled, as are most of the staff at the Child Care Center. The Executive Director Lindsay Percival, however, has sanctioned this area in the classroom. This school has a long history with the African American community, Dajae Coleman was a former student. The # of subsidized families here is 70% of the total enrollment. The board is unaware of this and last I heard, parents had not been notified....

I am still waiting to hear from my friend to see if she is willing to be interviewed, but is there anything else specifically you would need? I am attaching the photo my friend sent me...this is the area that is designated for gun play. It doesn't show much, but it wouldn't unless children were in the area shooting each other. I am shocked and saddened that this is happening to a classroom in our community. If my children still attended here, I would be pulling them out immediately.

On November 19th, I wrote:

Yes, I'd like to cover this. It's hard to imagine a school that sets aside a dedicated area for gun play; I'm intrigued by what the rationale is behind it. Okay, so I have a bunch of questions for you

1. What's your role in all of this (you're a teacher now?). Where do you teach and for how long have you been an educator?
2. The photo doesn't show much at all. How big is the area?
3. Does your friend want to talk "off the record" with me?
4. Why haven't the board and parents been made aware?
5. As a former preschool teacher myself (and as a mother of 3 kids), I'm most curious about why this area came about in the first place. I'd like to think they're using it in a system to eradicate inappropriate gun play entirely (perhaps they've had a problem and are trying to set limits?) but even still...it just doesn't make sense the way it's been presented so far.
6. Do you think Lindsay will be willing to talk?

7. When did this area first appear in the classroom and why?

Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

The same day, I received this response:

Ok, I will answer the questions the best I can...

1. I have been a preschool teacher in the past which is how I have friends that teach and why I am familiar with families who send their children there. I love the school, I just am mortified and sad that the school has a classroom with a gunplay area. I know that some of these families do have guns in their homes. I have been in education for 13 years.

2. The area is small. About 3'x3'. 

3. Yes, [my friend] is willing to talk to you.

4. I do not know why the parents and board haven't been made aware. Parents have not been made aware of this area or the fact that there is a problem of pretend shooting in the classroom. What is so shocking is that these are young 2's. Babies, to me. The other four classrooms, ages 3-5, do not have these areas...yet. Will they? Questions I have been thinking about...

5. Apparently, there was gun play, so their solution was to create a small area to allow it to happen in, in order to see if the 2 year olds would 'lose interest' in shooting each other.

6. I believe…Lindsay would be willing to talk. I cannot imagine why [she] wouldn't want to defend something that potentially could really upset their families and the community as a whole.

7. It appeared last Wednesday due to the children all 'shooting' each other and the solution was to create this 'gunplay' area.

Hope those questions all helped. If you need to, please e-mail me again. I am really grateful this will be covered as I was born and raised in Evanston...I will never leave Evanston and I am in such support of anti-guns, and violence and getting the youth of our community away from the guns. And, to be honest, a lot of these children are from the "high risk" families that end up with their sons murdered or the murderer. To me, this is saying "go ahead and shoot each other, why not?" And then what happens when a two year old comes across an actual handgun?

Please let me know if you need anything else.

I then sent this email to the concerned citizen’s friend who works at CCC:

WOW. I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole issue....

I'm a former preschool teacher (Cherry Preschool) and there were never guns permitted there. I'm pretty stunned that CCC would allow something like this.

I'm going to reach out to Lindsay Percival but I wanted to reach out to you, as well. Your name will not be used and you will not be identified. However, if there's something you'd like to say about this in general terms…please feel free. I'm so glad you spoke up.

This was the friend’s reply:

Thank u ms Lindsay already spoke to me. The only thing is they r not aloud guns but they use there hands and some of the other Legos and such as pretend guns. Hope this was helpful. Thanks again. 

I sent this email to CCC’s Executive Director Lindsay Percival as well as to the Board President, Sylvia Holdampf:

Hello, Lindsay and Sylvia,

My name is Christine Wolf and I write an opinion column for Patch.com in Evanston. I've also copied the Evanston Patch.com Editor, Jennifer Fisher, on this email. It's recently been brought to my attention that there is a small, 3x3 ft. area in a 2-year-old classroom at CCC for children to engage in gun play. As the mother of 3 children and having been a former preschool teacher, I'm very aware of how children (particularly boys) tend to engage in "shooting" activities with one another -- with or without guns. However, the individuals who've told me about this area at CCC are extremely troubled that there is any space dedicated to gun play within an educational/childcare facility. I've been told that neither the CCC Board of Directors -- nor the parents -- have been informed about this area. I'd like to find out more about this issue from the two of you, as I'm writing an opinion column about it today. If you'd like to send me a statement to include in the body of the column or in the comments section, feel free to do so at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards,

Christine Wolf

Lindsay Percival wrote back immediately:

Hi Christine This is Lindsay, you and I knew each other at Cherry Preschool Let me explain what is happening here. WE DO NOT HAVE AN AREA TO PROMOTE GUN PLAY.  We have a classroom that is heavy with boys and yes they have picked up a lego block and played with it as a gun. Saying no and distracting the children has worked but the play still goes on. The teacher in the classroom has just been to a GOAEYC conference where is was suggested that rather than the knee jerk reaction of saying "no guns" and constantly having to remind the children, the teacher can say guns belong over there, in a small very bland, boring area of the classroom. The theory being similar to 'bathroom words belong in a bathroom'. Last Friday she tried the theory out to see what would happen. The boys went in the area and played guns for less than a minute then became more enamored with the tape on the floor and began jumping over it. There has not been any gun play in the classroom since. Will we keep the area for gun play? no. it's used for all sort of play and quiet reflection. Will the teacher say the same next time? probably not since it has turned out to be so controversial. Christine I would love to talk to you about this, my number here is 847 869 2680 [she also provided her cell] Lindsay

It only occurred to me after reading Lindsay’s email that we’d met nearly 20 years ago. I’d been living in Chicago, working on my graduate degree in early childhood education, and had observed Lindsay and her classroom at Warren W. Cherry Preschool in Evanston. When I eventually moved here, I sent my three children to Cherry and eventually became a teacher there. Only when Lindsay pointed out that we’d worked at the same school did I put two and two together. I looked forward to speaking with her, so as we played phone tag, I took to Facebook and posted this:

What are your thoughts about having a dedicated gun-play area in a 2-year-old classroom?

Fifty-two comments appeared within six hours, including these:

  • Edd says: Did you move to Pennsylvania?
  • Alexis says: um, no.
  • Michelle says: This sounds significantly more complicated than the way it is phrased. What's the back story?
  • Elizabeth says: Ridiculous. While I don't have a problem with gun play in my house (PRETEND GUNS), I don't think it belongs in school. It's easy enough to tell kids, even 2 year olds, that gun play isn't appropriate for school.
  • Robin says: Dislike

I added this comment:

  • I've been told there's a 2-yr-old classroom in Evanston that has a dedicated gun play area (3ft x 3ft). I'm trying to learn the back story from the director and board members, but I've been told the parents haven't been told about it yet. As a former preschool teacher (and mother of 2 boys), I understand that boys will fashion guns out of anything, including their hands. There may be a very purposeful reason for setting up this area (ie., limiting abundant, overzealous, inappropriate gun play to a small area of the classroom with the intent to completely diminish it) but my gut instinct is to offer any other remedy than allowing gun play in this setting.

And the comments continued:

  • Elizabeth says: Boys also like to wrestle and fight and that is not allowed in school. It seems totally silly to me.
  • Tony says: um...no. it's the only thought i can have
  • Michelle: I think limiting gunplay in two-year-olds is more than a little silly - there is zero evidence that pretend play of this nature is anything other than that. Provided there's no physical contact, I don't see the harm in play-fighting any more than I do in kids playing "monster." http://www.webmd.com/.../toy-guns-do-they-lead-real-life...
    That said, I am bothered by the idea that a preschool would come up with a system to address any specific behavior without talking to parents about it first.
  • Tony says: there are enough real guns in schools we do not need to advocate pretend ones...next field trip to the shooting range anyone???
  • Susan says: NOT
  • Elizabeth says: There are things that are appropriate for school and things that are not. Another example is that some preschoolers don't like to keep their clothes on. Unfortunately (for them) that isn't appropriate in a school setting!
  • Sonja says: As a former preschool teacher myself, horrible idea to have dedicated gun play space. A lot of time is spent structuring the environment to maximize areas of learning. I don't believe this type of *reverse psychology* is appropriate, in my opinion.
  • Audrey says: Please tell me that's someone's really bad idea and that they haven't actually implemented it!
  • Mindy says: You're kidding, right?
  • Lydia says: Whose on first?
  • Tamar says: While there are kids who will make guns out of anything, I don't think this happens at 2. For a 2 year old to want to play with guns, it clearly means he/she had been taught about guns. There are so many things that are wrong with the concept of having a gun-playing area in a 2 year old classroom. Sigh...
  • Michelle says: I am not a supporter of real guns in any way - but I think it's important to make sure that we're basing what we do on evidence and not on our gut reactions or personal fears. I can see where real harm can be done to kids by shaming them about perfectly harmless and normal behavior, or pathologizing it. You're really going to make assumptions about the family life of a 2 year old you've never met by behavior you haven't seen? ...the real issue is the lack of disclosure on the part of the school.
  • Candace says: Two year olds? Are they pointing fingers and saying "bang bang"? Exactly what are they watching on TV?
  • Missy says: no
  • Maret says: As a parent of two girls who started making their own swords out of plain cardboard at age 3, I totally "get" the natural child impulse toward battle games. However, if you create a dedicated gun play area, you're directing kids toward gun play. Let them have open-ended stuff and devise their own play.
  • Linnea says: no. And this is from a mom whose 14 yo daughter has a gun.
  • John says: This takes on different meanings based on the why behind it all and the actual implementation. Not enough info and most of the discussion in raising this issue this way probably won't be applicable to the actual situation once you have the full story.
  • Phil says: I gather the "dedicated gun play" area is really a restricted area, so gun play isn't permitted elsewhere?
  • Dan says: Hey now, in Pennsylvania we keep it out of schools. In fact 1st day of deer season is a school holiday.

I jumped in to clarify:

  •  It's limited to a 3x3 area in the classroom.

This 3 ft. x 3 ft. area was designated for children who engaged in gun-play activities (using fingers as guns or making Lego guns) in an effort to deter gun-play in the classroom setting.

This 3 ft. x 3 ft. area was designated for children who engaged in gun-play activities (using fingers as guns or making Lego guns) in an effort to deter gun-play in the classroom setting.

Then more comments came back:

  • Alissa says: First of all, 2 year olds have pretty limited skills for imaginary play and almost no cooperative play, so developmentally it makes no sense. I think there is a difference between self generated play (making a gun with Legos, toast, your hand...) and play that is prompted by the presence of a object. This holds true for any kind of play, not just guns. I do not as a rule discourage self generated play, but I might limit it in a school setting depending on the circumstances. I worry about this designated area and these toys for children who have been exposed to trauma . They need a much more controlled, therapeutic setting with carefully selected toys to engage in this kind of activity in a way that can be healing.
  • Kristin says: How does a two year old know what a gun is? Where on earth are they exposed to that information? And if the area is only a 3x3, what is the message exactly? That if you want to shoot someone, do it at close range?

I wrote:

  • What if the kids are making guns out of Legos and other toys? Okay to let them play with those items in a designated area? The theory used by the teacher, apparently suggested by leaders at a GOAEYC conference, is not to have a "knee jerk" "no guns" reaction but to discourage gun play by making it "boring". The analogy I've been given is that "just as bathroom talk stays in the bathroom, these types of toys and behavior have a place."

And the comments kept coming:

  • Candace says: A two year old can't put to Lego's together. Something sounds off here. A four year old, sure, but not two.
  • Kate says: The four-year old class has a dedicated "toy cocktail bar" area that the two year olds get to bring their toy guns to as long as they get a concealed carry permit from the teacher.
  • Peter says: My 5 year old son has asked on various occasions for either a Nerf gun or an old fashioned cowboy pistol or rifle, no different than what I played with when I was a kid. Part of me thinks it is harmless play, but the reason I always say no is because if there is ever a guy with a real gun pointed at him (god forbid), the bad guy or even police officer doesn't know if it's fake or real, and I am not interested in that game of roulette. So no play area, no you guns is where I come down.

I threw in an analogy:

  • Is this supposedly well-intentioned gun play area any different than a "crack corner," where kids can pretend to snort crack cocaine (and run Toronto)?

Then more comments from others:

  • Rachel says: I grew up in a religious pacifist home. We weren't even allowed a simple squirt gun. We still made guns with sticks, with legos, with our fingers.....I suppose it encouraged creativity on our part.(lol) My point is, we still played with "guns" whether we had them or not. Now, as a parent, my children and I together have had hours of nerf gun play, especially on a cold winters day- harmless enough and super fun...but for two year olds??? Not. Necessary.

I added this:

And these comments followed:

  • Julie says: No!
  • Audrey says: Do they also have hooker costumes for the dress up area? or serve candy cigarettes at snacktime? What's WRONG w/these people? and how do the parents NOT know what is going on in their child's preschool classroom? Do they not pick them up/drop them off or tour the school before placing them in this type of environment?
  • Catherine says: crap. that's the crappiest idea i've ever heard. look at stats- look at violent video game stats- why start desensitizing kids at 2 WHY??
  • Jennifer says: Um, no.
  • Lauren says: I don't believe in Zero Tolerance policies where young children could be expelled or reported to police for imitating violence because even the youngest kids get a glimpse of big brother playing a shooting game or mom watching the news in the background. (I believe this is where the idea for this is coming from.) Young kids learn through imitation. However, I also think early childhood centers should have rules that are enforced but explained to children in age-appropriate ways. (It is not ok to pretend to shoot people at school and here is why.) Having a designated area for gunplay is ridiculous. Either allow it or don't, but don't make one area where breaking the rules is ok.
  • Kimberlee says: No way!
  • Karen says: I don't think a 3X3 area is going to make this boring. I'm not sure why the teachers think that a 3X3 area is going to make it boring. My point is if they have an area (big or small) they will play with whatever is allowed in that area. I personally think this is a HORRIBLE idea. I don't think 2yr olds need to know anything about guns.
  • Julie says: I have no problem with weapons play for little kids, but a dedicated spot *in the classroom*?? For *2 year olds*?
  • Lori says: You don't want to know...
  • Carol says: So stupid
  • Seth says: wrong...i'd send my child elsewhere
  • I don't think that's a good idea, even remotely. I think the other comments on here sum that up quite nicely.

Finally, I connected with Lindsay Percival on the phone. She told me that her classroom teacher had noticed some students engaging in gun-play activities. The teacher, having recently attended the GOAEYC Conference, decided to address the issue in a manner other than simply declaring, “No guns,” particularly since some children continued “shooting” behavior even when they were told to stop. The teacher tried, instead, to create an age-appropriate situation to discourage the behavior. She put a piece of tape on the floor and told the children any “shooting” was restricted to the tiny, out-of-the way area of the classroom between the tape and the wall. Percival insists the intent was to create an area to discourage violence, not for gun-play. In fact, she added, after just a few minutes, children in the area grew bored and began jumping over tape on the floor used to mark the area. The teacher encouraged them to join the rest of the class and the gun-play stopped. Most importantly, she said, was that this issue is one that deserves a lot of discussion, that it’s behavior that happens in classrooms all over and needs to be addressed.

Following our conversation, I went back to Facebook to report what I’d learned:

  • I just spoke with the director, who says the teacher tried it out last Friday to discourage gun play (and make it boring for those who wouldn't stop). I'm told the "section" designated for this behavior worked and that the kids found it more fun jumping over the line of tape on the floor than playing with their "weapons". She also said the "section" has since been removed and the school is now talking about how to handle similar situations. Sounds to me that a massive dialogue needs to happen on many levels.

After that, I heard back from only 3 more people:

  • Sophia says: Oh. I didn't know it was to discourage gun play. I thought it was just to have it there is they COULD play like that. That's actually a kind of good strategy. I do believe it needs to be discussed however.
  • Sonja says: If the classroom is a learning rich environment and teachers can plan curriculum that is age appropriate based on the interests of the children there really wouldn't be the need to have the *reverse* play area to discourage it. Especially at 2 years old.
  • Belinda says: Boys, especially like gun play. I always allowed in my classroom during free play for 3's plus-but encouraged good guys. 2's though? Couldn't they be redirected to find something else to play? Doesn't sound good to me.

I then went back to the concerned citizen to hear her take on my conversation with the CCC Director:

[I’m told] that this whole incident actually took place last Friday…that the teacher's intent was to discourage gun-play in the classroom by making it boring. Does this sound like what you heard?

This is a complicated issue and I'm glad you brought it to my attention. How did you know to reach out to me?

She then responded:

I was told it happened on Wednesday. It was not a one day trial and I read [on Facebook] that you said she took it down, and if that is the case, I am going to assume she only took it down because you were made aware of the situation. I heard it was an area to let kids play with guns to see if it would encourage them to 'lose interest' in guns. What? At close range? 

I knew to contact you because I have read many of your articles on the Patch before and I have read your posts about your support of anti-violence in our community and how much the Dajae Coleman murder impacted you - well the murders in Evanston, in general - that I felt you would be a good person to inform of this story. 

Let me know if you need anything else, thanks.

I wrote back:

When I asked Lindsay what CCC will do if/when another incident with gun play arises, she said, "They're discussing it.”
Thank you for bringing this all to my attention.
You've remained anonymous and will stay that way.
Warm regards,
CW

P.S. I recognize how hard it is to "do the right thing" sometimes...and this is one of those times. Thank you.

I received this reply:

The teacher said it was open since Wed. And it doesn't surprise me, sadly, that [CCC] doesn't have a plan of action…I spoke with another friend who heard of this whose son is 2 and is on the wait list at the CCC and is now pulling him off of it.

I appreciate remaining anonymous…Thank you for recognizing how this was hard to do. I questioned it over and over because I truly feel strongly against what I heard and what was/is happening...but, then I wasn't sure if I should, etc, etc. Bottom line is I had to follow my gut, and my gut says to protect our children. 

Thanks again.

The next day, I received this email from CCC’s Director:

The Child Care Center has been in existence for nearly 70 years. We have two programs; here at the Center we serve up to 95 children from 2 – 5 years old in five developmental classrooms. Two classrooms have Pre School for All programs and one is a Montessori Hybrid combining the best of both philosophies.  Our Family Child Care Connections program is a network of private, licensed child care homes we contract with to take care of children from 6 weeks to 3 years old. 4 of those homes are for Early Head Start children.  Our primary goal is to prepare children for success in life and in school. To teach them the tools to enter Kindergarten successfully and the skill sets to prepare a child for life. We do this by having low ratios of teachers to children so that there are plenty of quality interactions between each other to stimulate the neurons in the brain. Offering a well throughout routine and curriculum that promotes security and teachable moments, our days are packed with experiences that increase knowledge and expand vocabulary.  We mirror the diversity of Evanston, any child who walks through our door is welcome, 70% of our children receive subsidized care from the State of Illinois.  I am immensely proud of my teachers and staff. They are dedicated and always looking to increase their knowledge and education. They stay open to new ideas in education that help our children learn.  Christine I could go on and on. I love this Center. I hope this helps you and if you need any more information please contact me at 847 869 2680. My offer of a tour of the Center still stands, anytime you want to come over we would love to have you here.  Lindsay

What to make of all of this? Here’s my opinion – and I hope you’ll add yours.

When I was a new mother, I forbade toy guns for my first child, a boy. No squirt guns. No Army guys (unless the weapons were twisted off). No TV shows with any violence. If the news was on, you can bet my child was either napping or playing elsewhere.

But as his curiosity and voice grew, I came to realize that my child is a part of a world that can and always will contain guns. He idolized police officers. Stared from the living room window at the older neighborhood boys having squirt gun fights. Listed neon-colored nerf guns at the top of most wish lists. I didn’t want a gun to be the impossible itch under a confining plaster cast – more important in its inaccessibility than it really was. I wanted him to understand that real guns are dangerous and never to be used by anyone other than people trained to use them.

There was no denying it: good guys and bad guys existed everywhere in my young son’s world. Power Rangers fought bad guys with laser blasters. During the annual stroll through Evanston’s Custer St. Fair, we’d linger as he watched the “lucky” kids who took home the wooden rubber-band “shooters”. I realized that saying “no” to guns made him want them even more.

I still remember the first time I bought him a toy gun. We were at Target, and I had all three kids with me. My older son was seven and my youngest boy was two. None of my kids at that time got along. I was at the end of my rope. The younger son pointed to a Power Rangers laser blaster and I put two in our cart -- one for each boy. I was elated that they’d play together but horrified that I’d caved.

I taught them that toy guns had a time and a place. Never pointed directly at anyone, never used to scare anyone. There were many moments when my rules were broken, and the guns were taken away. The concept of “play” and guns was never easy for me to justify…until I noticed how many meaningful conversations we’d have about them. Why do you think your brother got scared when you pointed that gun at him? What if that had been a real one and you’d shot him? What if you couldn’t bring your brother back? How does it feel when someone points a gun at you? What would you say if you saw someone pointing a toy gun at someone else’s head?  What else would you want for Christmas that doesn’t include a Nerf gun or bullets?

We have an arsenal of toy guns in our basement, but they come out less and less as the boys have grown (they’re now 16 and 10). These days, they’re rarely used unless the younger male cousins or the neighborhood boys are looking to play outdoors. Once, as a noisy Nerf war raged in front of the house with sponge bullets and boys hiding in bushes, my neighbor’s wife called and asked if I’d bring the boys in; her husband couldn’t bear to see young children engaged in gun-play after the recent Sandy Hook shootings. I could hear the neighbor’s husband sobbing in the background. I brought the boys in and talked to them about how upset our neighbor was. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” I said. “I’m the one that allowed toy guns. But,” I’d said, “you need to know how dangerous real guns are. Children were killed when someone used a real gun for a bad reason.” The boys were confused at first, then grew very quiet. They processed the situation and ask questions about gun violence in their 9-year-old words. I knew that their play had led to meaningful discussion.

Children see and hear more than most adults realize. We hand them our smartphones to play on with news stories in the search history about shootings. We leave the newspaper on the table with lead stories of Blackhawks victories and Chicago’s new tagline of “Murder Capital of America.” They’re around televisions and video games and toy aisles and they see and hear the things older siblings and friends and neighbors say and do. Images and discussions about gun violence do not go unnoticed -- no matter how old a child is. Like it or not, children are aware of guns and it’s our responsibility to help shape their understanding of them. From the earliest age, a child needs to understand that certain issues are unquestionable:

Wash your hands.

Be kind.

Watch out for cars.

Brush your teeth.

Vegetables are healthier than candy.

You are loved.

Guns kill.

While I don’t see a reason to permit gun-play in schools, there are some who do. First, it’s important to understand the concept of “play”. According to an article in Early Childhood News by Jill Englebright Fox, Ph.D, “Although play is a difficult concept to define, it is very easy to recognize. Children actively involved in play may be engaged in a variety of activities, independently, with a partner, or in a group. Because play is closely tied to the cognitive, socio-emotional, and motor development of young children, it is an important part of developmentally appropriate early childhood programs.” And, consider this 2003 article by Diane Rich: Bang, Bang! Gun Play And Why Children Need It. And this UK writer also condones gun play in early childhood settings. Further, NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children), compiled this Superhero and Gun Play resource list Now, consider this scenario: A child, playing in a housekeeping corner of a classroom, tells her teacher that a banana reminds her of the gun she’s seen in her house – unlocked and accessible. The teacher informs the child’s parent after school and a potential tragedy is averted. In Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population, published in PEDIATRICS (The official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) from October 18th, 2012, “Resiliency-based violence-prevention strategies in preschool children have shown improvement in teacher interactional skills supporting children’s resiliency and improvement in children’s prosocial behaviors.55 Other studies have shown that both family support and early childhood education result in reductions in delinquency56; however, one study has shown that, for seventh-grade children exposed to high levels of violence as victims or witnesses, a conflict-resolution class produced more anxiety, depression, and aggression.57 School curricula aimed at reducing violence should be specific to the population and include evaluation components to determine their effectiveness.58” Look at the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics policy, which advocates “for the strongest possible firearm regulations. The absence of guns in homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents. The AAP supports a number of specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban assault weapons; and expanded regulations of handguns for civilian use. To prevent gun-related death and injuries, the AAP recommends that pediatricians provide firearm safety counseling to patients and their parents. It's clearly a complicated issue and I believe we need to make an age-appropriate curriculum a priority for every educational setting to equip teachers and their caregivers meaningful strategies to address guns and violence. When a child points a gun fashioned from a Lego when trying to understand his world, what should a teacher say to the child and to the class? If a shooting hits the news, what are the opportunities for dialogue that teachers can raise? Our children are exposed to guns. They are curious. What should we be telling them? Please add your comments below.

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