Thursday, December 08, 2005
The following letter was sent to parents at Grant Street Elementary School in Port Townsend. It was signed by Principal Steve Finch and 28 teachers and staff members.There is a problem in our community with the proliferation of look-alike guns. Law enforcement personnel are fearful of making a decision that could be fatal to a youth with a toy or airsoft weapon. Young people are carrying airsoft weapons, probably without realizing the concern the sight of a possible weapon elicits from those who see them. Educators are concerned with incidents of students who use angry words and actions instead of problem-solving techniques that could really end hostilities.It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about the winter holiday season and the gifts we can give our children that will really make them happy. As educators, we would ask you to consider making it a gun-free holiday.With television, children are continually bombarded with ads for the newest and most scintillating of toys, many of which are violent. Children are asked by family, friends and even the shopping mall Santa what toys they want. Many children will ask for the toy gun or the violent video they have seen in ads or played with at a friend’s house. It is still the responsibility of the parent, however, to decide what toys will be a good match with the child, what toys will best uphold your family’s values, what toys are age-appropriate, and what toys will enhance your child’s life and experience. It may be difficult to ask grandparents and others to honor your wishes rather than the child’s, but the result will be that you have established parameters around gift-giving that will make the holidays an easier time for the whole family.When a child receives a toy weapon as a gift, he or she will understandably use it to play war games or cops and robbers. That act will not necessarily turn a child to violent acts, but the accumulation and repetition of violent play and violent images on TV or video can desensitize our children and youths to violence. Choosing toys that promote nonviolence can introduce your child to ideas that hopefully, with time, will make everyone feel more secure. When your child asks for toy weapons or violent videos, you may use it as an opportunity to open discussion about your personal values or your concern about the overabundance of violent images, play and actual incidents in our world. Simply saying “I don’t like guns because they can hurt people on purpose or accidentally” makes a statement for a young child.Here are some suggestions you might want to pass on to gift-givers: toys that promote creativity; board games for the whole family; books – both fiction and nonfiction; theater, concert, sporting event or museum tickets; a magazine subscription; enrollment or membership in a club, team or leisure activity; educational or nonviolent video games; sports equipment; materials for projects to do with a parent, such as building a skateboard ramp, making jewelry, baking, fixing an engine, scrapbooking, insect collecting, etc.; scientific games such as a chemistry set or microscope; a family activity such as a trip or other time to share together; musical instruments and/or lessons.