By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
After a gunman killed 20 students at a Connecticut elementary school in December, “the first reaction of the kids was that this won’t happen here in our school,” said Sharon’s Case Avenue Elementary School Principal Traci Valentino.
A month later, L’Angelo “Lee Lee” Crumby Ford was killed by a gunshot to the chest during a get-together in Sharon. Some elementary school kids had questions about the death of the Sharon High sophomore.
That was when Valentino decided to take “immediate” action to teach her students gun safety.
“A lot of kids in our school are connected to him (Ford), and the community, so we felt the need to do this right away,” she said.
“We did not want to alarm them, but teach them,” said Valentino.
Monday, the students had their first lesson.
On Tuesday, first-graders were quick to shout out answers when Valentino asked them what they had learned the day before: “What are the three rules you should follow if you see a gun?”
“Don’t touch it,” “Get away from the gun,” and “Tell an adult,” were their answers.
Valentino said, “We are teaching kids to go into different situations and be ready to respond. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
She thought it was also important for the kids to identify positively with policemen and others who carry guns.
She asked the first-graders, “Who are the people who are allowed to carry guns?”
Again, quick answers from the kids were: “Soldiers,” “Policemen,” “Park rangers.” Valentino told them that those people and hunters may carry guns, but they all have special permission to do so.
Kids were encouraged to go home and tell their parents what they learned.
Valentino urged parents to talk with their kids about gun safety at an early age. “You can never have too much conversation in your house,” she said.
A letter sent home to parents Friday spelled out how each class would be introduced to safety rules that could prevent gun accidents.
“This is a districtwide program that is grouped into grade levels,” said Valentino. “It is important to educate kids from their perspective.”
Students signed a safety pledge to be a “Smart Tiger” (the tiger is the school mascot) by: “helping my community by practicing gun safety, never playing with guns, treating every gun as if it were loaded, never threatening anyone with a gun, never pointing a gun at anyone, never bringing a toy or real gun to school, and reporting those who do.”