A mother from Jacksonville, Florida, is upset about an NRA-designed gun safety program presented in her son’s public school.
Florida’s Duval County Public schools are facing criticism from a mother who was outraged that her son was accidentally taught basic firearms safety without her prior permission.
Mandarin Oaks Elementary used the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” program and video as part of a lesson on what children should do should they accidentally discover a firearm.
Hear more of the woman’s complaints in the news report video below. If you’re curious, you can also check out the Eddie Eagle video further down the page.
The mother had previously said she taught her 7-year-old that all guns are bad, but the program undid that thinking.
“They’ve just undone seven years of parenting in one hour,” the unnamed mother told Fox 30 Jacksonville. She claims her son brought home a pamphlet that advocated for firearms. “Mommy, you’re wrong. Toy guns are OK. See, guns are OK, mom. See? It says so right here,” the mother told the news station her son said.
She also claims the school district is NRA-affiliated as a result of the incident. Duval County Schools superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti admitted a mistake had been made because they usually offer an opt-out option for the program to parents.
In case you’re wondering what some of the fuss is about, here’s the Eddie Eagle safety video:
Some of the program’s other official materials can also be seen on Eddie the Eagle’s official website, although it’s unclear exactly what was written in the pamphlet the woman’s son brought home.
Superintendent Vitti also said, in a response to the mother, that the school felt the content of the lesson was important and the program does not advocate owning firearms.
Here’s the response:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me regarding a safety program that the district has been successfully using for more than 20 years in our elementary grades. As a parent, I very much appreciate your advocacy and respect the parenting positions that you expressed in your email. Your partnership is an important part of ensuring a quality educational experience not only for your child, but for all children.
I agree that the topic of firearms is a sensitive issue, and that the public school system needs to understand that there are multiple viewpoints held by parents when educating students. That is why we aim to keep the message easy to understand and without a discussion on gun ownership, use, or other personal perspectives around firearms. It is true that the National Rifle Association is part of the consortium that developed the Eddie Eagle program through its outreach office, but its development was guided by specialists in education, public safety, public health, and child development. This curriculum is not intended to assume your authority to guide your child’s moral development. Please know that I take nothing more seriously than keeping students safe when they are with us at school, and I hope the messages we provide will help keep them safe when they are away from our classrooms. The program is about gun safety. Information that many students are unaware of and could save their lives.
Like any safety program, we are most concerned that the content and the message is something that the student can understand and ultimately remember should he or she ever be faced with a threatening situation. Our choice of Eddie Eagle is based on its use of colorful and animated characters that a second grader can respond to, and content that is embedded in music to make the learning fun and engaging. The Eddie Eagle program, with its simple message of “Stop!; Don’t Touch; Run Away; and Tell A Grown-up,” along with its brief video and catchy song helps to bring alive an important message without intimidating the children.
When the Eddie Eagle program is delivered in schools, the district uses an “opt out” letter to parents. It was discovered by staff that this did not happen for your child’s classroom, hence your surprise and frustration with not even having the opportunity to ask questions or review the curriculum. Moving forward, we will ensure this consistently occurs.”
The incident has become high-profile enough that Duval County Public Schools spokesperson Laureen Ricks also released a statement. Her statement reiterated many of the superintendent’s thoughts on the matter:
The Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program was chosen because its gun–safety message is packaged in an engaging and easily-relatable presentation that resonates with students. This is key because the safety of our students is one of our highest priorities. The program does not contain any messaging about gun ownership, use of firearms, endorsements, or political perspectives. Please note this is a voluntary presentation and parents may choose to opt their child out of participating. Too many children grow up not being exposed to gun safety.”
What do you think? Did this woman over-react? Does the school have a responsibility to teach this kind of program, and do parents need to be informed ahead of time?