Parents at a Tennessee school are rightfully angry after an incident involving a 5-year-old student bringing a gun to school in his book bag.
It seems the child meant no harm; however, the gun accidentally discharged while in his bag, sending students and teachers at the Westside Elementary School in Frayser, Tenn., school scrambling for safety. Many parents told media outlets they were not notified of the incident and learned about it through media reports, setting off a fire storm of anger.
The school system defended its actions of not notifying parents by issuing a statement saying that, “because this was an isolated and controlled situation that occurred before the school day started and did not involve any individual or school-wide threat, the system was not used. Letters to parents will be going home with students this afternoon.”
The school system spokesman told the media that the situation was handled by school security personnel and police officers.
Thankfully, while no one was injured, parents do have a right to be alarmed that incident took place at their child’s school and they weren’t notified until they turned on their televisions or radios. The school’s philosophy is that everything was under control, the incident occurred while student’s were waiting in the cafeteria for the first bell to ring, and no was injured therefore no reason to call parents.
Parents, on the other hand, are not happy with the school’s stance on things. Parents felt they should have notified immediately and allowed to decide whether or not they wished to come to school to pick up their child or speak with a school official to garner more information about the incident.
These types of incidents are every parents’ worst fear. They send their child to school to only have something go horribly wrong. When parents send a child to school there is some expectation that their child will be protected from harm and return home relatively unscathed from the day’s activities.
While this particular child involved meant no harm (apparently the gun was for show and tell), it exposes just how simple it could be for someone who was intent on doing harm to our most vulnerable folks to smuggle a weapon into the school. The incident in Tennessee while unnerving to parents exposes the need for better safeguards at all schools.
Had the book bag in question been clear (see through), it is highly possible an adult would have noticed the gun much sooner and immediately removed it from the child’s possession. If metal detectors were in use at this school it may be possible to have detected the weapon earlier as well. While no system is fool proof and not without its bugs, it does give parents peace of mind knowing that all that can reasonably be done to guarantee a safe environment for their child is in place.
Some school systems in the United States have even taken to the idea of arming teachers so they may be a last line of defense should an intruder make it into their classroom. This idea has been met with mixed reactions in places where it has been tried.
Ultimately, there is some responsibility to bear on the part of the parents of the student for not properly securing their weapon where curious little hands could not pick it up or remove it from the home. While the parents may have assumed their child would never “play” with a gun, that cannot be 100 percent assured. Any 5-year-old has an innate curiosity about the world and the things around them, this includes guns. It is the parents’ responsibility when they have children in a home with guns to properly teach the child to respect the weapon and not to play with it. Guns are not toys and can do serious damage when misused and children, especially young children, need to understand this.
Guns aren’t what hurt people. It is the person holding gun and pulling the trigger who does. When a very young child plays with a gun, they have no idea just how much danger they potentially are in and usually a tragedy is the result.
Hopefully the parents of this 5-year-old learned a valuable lesson and thankfully no one was hurt.
— Erin Smith is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal. She can be reached by telephone at 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.