Fundraiser For Beacon High School's "The Beacon Players"

We love supporting The Beacon Players - Beacon High School Drama and Theater Arts organization - at A Little Beacon Blog. This group goes above and beyond when putting a production together for the community to enjoy. Fans of The Beacon Players will know that tickets to their shows are only $5 and would like to keep it this way. That’s why the group is asking all of us to support and check out their new Snap!Raise Fundraising page.

The Beacon Players are raising money for costumes, art supplies, set building materials, and advertising. Your support will help them offer a higher quality experience for all participants and is vital to the success of the program.  With a goal of $3,000, they are almost halfway there as of this write-up.

The next production presented by The Beacon Players will be A Chorus Line, one of the longest-running shows on Broadway, the weekend of December 7-9, 2018. You can purchase your tickets here.

Raffle: Chance For A Kid To Win A Ride To School On A Fire Truck

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If you missed this event last year, you have another chance to enter your kid to win a ride in a fire truck! Each $5 ticket into Rombout’s Raffle helps raise money for the eighth-grade Washington DC trip. This raffle’s grand prize is a ride to school in a fire truck driven by the City of Beacon Fire Department and Slater Chemical Fire Company. Your child could be picked up at home - in a fire truck - and driven to school!

One kid from each of the four elementary schools in the Beacon City School District (South Avenue, Glenham, J. V. Forrestal and Sargent) will be selected as winners. Flyers went home in the little kids’ folders, so fill those out and send in money with your tickets - $5 per ticket or 3 tickets for $10! There is no limit to how many tickets you can buy.

If you want to buy several raffle tickets and need to print more raffle forms/tickets, you can print out the raffle form tickets here and keep sending them in, just in case riding to school in a fire truck sounds TOO COOL and you really want to increase your chances.


This is a highlight from A Little Beacon Blog’s School Opportunities Guide. There are more special events listed there, plus ways you can effortlessly donate to one of the schools in our district, through glass bottle collection, box tops, and other easy ways.

Beacon High School Gets "Satisfactory" Air Quality Grade After Mold Issue

Dehumidifiers and HEPA air filters have been installed, and cleanup continues after mold surfaced at the beginning of the school year at J. V. Forrestal Elementary and Beacon High School. The elementary school passed inspection with a “Satisfactory” air quality grade, and now Beacon High School has received a “Satisfactory” air quality grade as well. Meanwhile, cleanup will continue in the high school’s theater. Beacon’s Superintendent, Matthew Landahl, issued an update to the Beacon City Schools Website, which was emailed to parents on Friday, September 21, 2018:

 

“Adaptive Environmental Consulting tested seven different locations, either hallways or classrooms, throughout Beacon High School on Monday, September 17 and then repeated the testing on Wednesday, September 19. All results came back with low amounts of mold and a Satisfactory air quality rating. ServPro will continue to clean the theater in the high school and we will update you when that work is complete. Again, thanks for your patience and support as we work through this.”

 

Mold Creeps Its Way Into Beacon High School, J.V. Forrestal, and 7 Other Dutchess County Schools - BCSD Is On It

The official end of summer will be here before we know it, and September is proving to be an extremely hot back-to-school month. Forget fall wardrobe outfits and new boots on the first day of school, or even for school pictures which happen a few weeks later. We’re talking 100% humidity, people. And not all of the schools or classrooms in the Beacon City School District have air conditioning.

Two days after the first day of school, Superintendent Matthew Landahl emailed parents in the district about mold creeping into the high school, and the quality of the air. He wrote twice on Friday, September 7, and again on Friday, September 14. Then the Poughkeepsie Journal reported on it, as mold occurrences are happening in other school districts, including Millbrook’s Elm Drive Elementary School (classes are shifting to the middle school; remediation is estimated to take six weeks, according to the article). Wingdale Elementary School in Dover closed for a day, and Hyde Park apparently has a longstanding mold issue at Park Elementary School, according to Nina Schutzman’s Poughkeepsie Journal article.

Communication and action in the Beacon City School District looked like this, with emails from Dr. Landahl on September 7, 2018 (these are partial clips of the correspondences):

 

“I am writing to let you know about an air quality issue that developed in 6 classrooms in Beacon High School the past three weeks and steps we have taken to remediate it.

“On August 20, the Head Custodian at Beacon High School noticed some mold that developed overnight on desktops and other surfaces in four science rooms in the high school (rooms C127, C133, C135, C141). He immediately notified our Director of Facilities Anthony D’Amato who started working with the BOCES Safety and Risk Coordinator Brian Colandrea. We believe that the mold developed in those four rooms due to the classrooms having many potted plants and aquariums. That combined with the extremely high humidity outside helped to develop conditions for mold growth.

“We hired an outside company, ServPro, to clean the four rooms over Labor Day weekend and we have ordered HEPA air filters and dehumidifiers for those rooms which will be in place at the beginning of next week. We have already received the air quality tests from those four classrooms and the results came back Satisfactory with the recommendation that we install dehumidifiers and HEPA air filters in those rooms.
[Editor’s Note: In the original email, “humidifier” was used in that last sentence, but “dehumidifier” was intended, as confirmed to A Little Beacon Blog by Dr. Landahl.]

On Tuesday, September 4, staff at the high school noticed some mold growing on instrument cases in the closet of the band room (room D163) and underneath the risers of the Chorus room (D157). Our own staff cleaned the instrument cases and furniture immediately. We will have the same company come in to clean those two rooms, and the Band/Chorus practice rooms which are in the same wing on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9.”

 

As of now, the dehumidifiers and HEPA filters have been put into place. Later that same day on September 7, 2018, parents received another update:

 

“It came to my attention today that two downstairs classrooms at J.V. Forrestal Elementary had mold develop in window sills and some of the edges of desks one morning a few weeks ago. It was wiped down immediately the day it was found and did not return. Since it was reported today, we inspected all of the downstairs classrooms in Forrestal with people from ServPro this afternoon. We did find small amounts of mold in rooms 6-12 (fourth-grade classrooms, third-grade classrooms, and art). We will have ServPro clean all of the those rooms on Monday, September 10. We will also install HEPA air filters and dehumidifiers in those rooms next week. We will test the air quality after the cleaning and share those results with you when we have them.”

 

A week later, on September 14, with the 100% humidity unrelenting, Dr. Landahl shared another update with new developments. All of these updates have been posted on the Beacon City School District’s website. These are snippets of his updates:

 

“I am writing to provide another update on air quality at Beacon High School. Yesterday, we noticed some mold growth on some of the cloth seats in the Beacon High School theater. We had the theater visually inspected today by the industrial hygienist we have been working with from Adaptive Environmental Consulting and he concurred with our assessment.

“We want to take care of this as quickly as we can so we are going to close off this space for the next two [to] three weeks so we can run powerful dehumidifiers for an extended period of time and have cleaners from ServPro clean every seat and treat other surfaces in the theater. The reason we are closing the theater is so that the folks from ServPro can work uninterrupted during this timeframe. The Beacon Players will be able to rehearse in our gyms during this period of time. I apologize for the inconvenience this will cause people.

“We will continue to test for air quality throughout the high school and share those results with you. We will also continue to work with our air chiller in the high school to see what adjustments or fixes need to be done to help mitigate this in the future.”

 

Capital Plan Improvements In Beacon City Schools

Projects that are part of the Capital Improvement Plan, funded by a public budget vote in November 2017, may aid in the overall fight against mold that threatens any structure (you can read about them here in our article). For example, replacing carpet with tile at Glenham Elementary could help, as mold and dust fester in old carpets. I’m a mold-phobe, and have been known to rip out old carpet from my home in the middle of the night - only to make myself very sick in the process from dust and not wearing a protective air mask. I’m currently chiseling adhesive carpet tile from my sunroom. Block by block.

Rooftop ventilation systems are also slated for replacement at J.V. Forrestal and Sargent Elementary. Roof repairs are slated for Beacon High School and Rombout Middle School.

All eyes are on improvements, as it seems like things are on track to getting better. Until the next mold update!

UPDATE 9/21/2018

The Beacon High School received a “Satisfactory” air quality grade this week, resulting in an update issued from Dr. Landahl on the Beacon City Schools’ website and emailed to parents:

 

“Adaptive Environmental Consulting tested seven different locations, either hallways or classrooms, throughout Beacon High School on Monday, September 17 and then repeated the testing on Wednesday, September 19. All results came back with low amounts of mold and a Satisfactory air quality rating. ServPro will continue to clean the theater in the high school and we will update you when that work is complete. Again, thanks for your patience and support as we work through this.”

 

Enhancements for Beacon City Schools: More 1:1 Learning, Chromebooks, Smaller Elementary Classes & PE

Matthew Landahl, Superintendent of Beacon City Schools, started off the new school year by getting in touch with parents and guardians of children in the district. His email to the Beacon school community spoke to his plans for the future, and enhancements to the programming that are happening this year.

They are as follows:

  • Fourth-grade instrumental music will begin for the first time ever later this fall, as a result of the grant we won last June.

  • Elementary students will experience Physical Education class every other day instead of two out of every six days.

  • Elementary class sizes are further reduced with the addition of three additional teachers.

  • Rombout Middle School will have a fully 1:1 learning environment with every student receiving a Chromebook this fall.

  • Interactive teaching screens will be added to Rombout Middle School and Beacon High School.

  • Further planning and development of the Capital Project (A Little Beacon Blog covered those details here) with construction the summer of 2019 on the Turf Athletic Field behind Beacon High School.

His goals for the upcoming year, as posted at the District website:

  • Create and facilitate a student advisory council for the district.

  • Create and facilitate a strategic planning process including forming a strategic planning advisory committee.

  • Increase and improve the quality of district communication in a variety of formats.

  • Help to create building and department leadership teams including the participation of parents and community members.

  • Facilitate equity leadership work in the district.

  • Maintain a high level of community and staff engagement through open forums, individual conversations, and online tools.

Already, parents of elementary students have been invited into the Parent Portal, which is an app that lets the parent and child log in to see homework and comments from the teacher. Older students used to be the only ones with access to this.

In terms of communication with parents at least, Dr. Landahl has been busy emailing updates about pesky mold that has been springing up in the Beacon High School and at J.V. Forrestal Elementary during these 100% humidity days, and steps the district is taking to remove it and prevent future problems.

$400K Grant Awarded for Music and World Language Programs for Beacon City School District

  Photo Credit:    Beacon City School District's    Website. Photograph by    Dawn Sela   .

Photo Credit: Beacon City School District's Website. Photograph by Dawn Sela.

The Beacon City School District was busy this summer. According to Beacon's Superintendent Matthew Landahl, the Beacon City School District was awarded a $400,000 grant from the New York State Education Department to "expand the instrumental music program and to offer an additional world language program at the secondary level" said Dr. Landahl. Parent involvment influenced the results of this grant. “Both aspects of this grant were deeply influenced by community input through either surveys or community conversations that took place last year,” confirmed Dr. Landahl.

The grant money will be implemented over the next two school years, and will pay for:

  • instructional staff salaries

  • materials and supplies

  • professional development to both expand the instrumental music program and to begin an additional world language program.

Music Program Expanded for 4th Graders

Third grade students receive a special musical experience called The Calico Ball, courtesy of the Beacon Arts and Education Fund (BAEF) which was innitiated by Pete Seeger years ago. This dance residency is for every 3rd grader in the Beacon City Public School District. After weeks of practice, a performance happens in the Beacon High School at the end of the school year.

This newest grant provides an easier continuation of music to the 4th grade. According to Dr. Landahl: “The music portion of the grant will allow us to expand our instrumental music program into the 4th grade this year. We are working on hiring the teacher and the 4th grade program will be in place later this fall. The grant pays for the teacher's salary for a year and all of the materials, supplies, and most important instruments to get the program going.”

Mandarin Might Be Coming To Beacon Schools

Beacon currently offers Spanish as a world language that is taught in school. This grant will bring Mandarin closer to the classroom. “The grant is for us to offer Mandarin in the 2019-2020 school year. A key part of the grant is that it allows us to explore the best ways to do this for a year before we implement the following year. If we are not able to offer Mandarin, we will explore offering a different language. The grant pays for a year of a teacher's salary and all of the materials and supplies to get the new program going.”

Dr. Landahl gave a special thanks to Assistant Superintendent Cecilia Dansereau-Rumley for "heading up the effort," according to his article on the Beacon City School District's website.

The grant was part of a larger one totaling $28.5 million, awarded to 38 school districts across New York State as part of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment federal grant program. Read more about that here.

Beacon Team Wins Battle of the Books - A Multi-County High School Reading Competition

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The finals at this year's High School Battle of the Books on Saturday, August 18, 2018, culminated in a tight battle between kids from Beacon and teens representing neighboring libraries: Cold Spring and Wappingers. "The three-round final ended with Cold Spring and Beacon in a tie. Everyone was on the edge of their seats when the two teams met for the tie-breaking round," according to the press release from the Howland Public Library. Beacon answered the tie-breaking question correctly to become the 2018 Mid-Hudson Library System's third annual High School Battle of the Books champion.

Battle of the Books is a national summer reading program for middle- and high-school students in the five-county region of the Mid-Hudson Library System. The program began in 2005 as a way to encourage middle school students to read during the summer. In 2016, the program was extended to reach high school students as well. Congratulations to Butterfield Library's team, The Evil Latin Teachers, who were the second-place winners, and to Grinnell Green Grapes, who took home third place.    

Beacon Team Is Two-Time Champions, Five-Time Winners!

This is the Beacon team's second championship at the high school level, and their fifth win overall since the competition began in 2005. This year, 13 public libraries in the Mid-Hudson Library System's five counties (Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, and Greene) competed in this nationally recognized literature contest in which teens answer trivia questions based on books they read over the summer.

Individual library teams worked through the summer with their coaches to prepare for this final regional battle. Mini-battles were played throughout the summer to practice for the big event. Over 60 students in grades 9-12 participated, while coaches, family, and friends cheered them on. "The teams all proved to be winners when it came to knowledge, team spirit, and good sportsmanship," according the Howland Library's press release.

Join Next Year’s Battle of the Books Team

To find out when the Howland Public Library is recruiting for next year’s time for both Middle and High School age kids, subscribe to their newsletter and to A Little Beacon Blog’s newsletter. We usually put information like that in our Kids Classes Guide, as a helpful reminder of signup dates.

Special Thank You from The Howland Public Library

A message from the Howland Public Library:

A big thank you to the host venue, SUNY Ulster and Matt Pavloff, HS BOB chairperson. Congratulations to all of the volunteers and families who came out to support the teams, and the coaches and librarians who worked so hard throughout the year to make this special event possible.

The Howland Public Library team would like to give a special shout out to Harry Thorne for his help coaching the team and the Friends of the Howland Public Library who generously sponsor the Beacon team every year. Last but not least, many thanks to Pizza and Stuff for keeping the team's hungry minds fed all summer.

South Avenue Sidewalks By Elementary School To Get Reconstructed

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Kids are about to get an easier commute to South Avenue School as the crumbling slate sidewalks are set to get reconstructed by the City of Beacon. Not even a rugged three-wheel jogging stroller can make it down these sidewalks without threatening to tip over. "The intention is to go from Main Street to the school," said Beacon's City Administrator, Anthony J. Ruggiero. A timeline has not been set in stone (pun intended), but a contractor has been hired.

Usually homeowners pay privately to have their sidewalks done. But not in this case. "This is a traveled area to the school. It was viewed as safety for the kids," said Anthony when we reached out to inquire about specifics on the financing. "We received some funding from Dutchess County. There is no cost to homeowners, however, they are responsible for maintenance and upkeep."

So - yay!

Get Involved in the 2018 Beacon High School Career Fair!

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With the huge success of last year's Beacon High School Career Fair, the school is currently seeking presenters for the 2018 Career Fair. It is a great opportunity to network with other businesses and share your knowledge with the students. The event will be held on Friday, May 25, from 10 am to 3 pm at the Beacon High School gymnasium. Presenters are asked to set up at the high school at 9 am. 

The fair will be set up in the gymnasium, where each presenter will have their own table to display information and items that represents the person’s career/profession that can serve as talking pieces with visitors. Students are invited to walk around and speak to the different presenters of their choice.

The career fair is seeking people who work in the following professions: 

  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Professional Athlete
  • Professional Actor/Actress
  • Fashion Designer/Model
  • Sports Management
  • Surgeon
  • Music producer
  • Nurse
  • Professional Photographer
  • Film Director
  • TV/Film Camera man
  • Interior Designer
  • Stock Broker/Hedge fund
  • Psychiatrist
  • Social Worker
  • Video Game Designer
  • YouTuber

If you are interested in participating, feel free to contact Michele Polhamus, School Counselor, by email at polhamus.m@beaconk12.org or by phone at (845) 838-6900.

Beacon School Budget Vote and Election 2018

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The annual School Budget Vote and Election will be held on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, from 7 am to 9 pm. There will be two voting locations, so make sure you are going to the right polling place: 

Voters who reside within the boundaries of the City of Beacon can vote at Beacon High School, 101 Matteawan Road. Voters who reside within the boundaries of the Town of Fishkill or Town of Wappinger can vote at Glenham Elementary, 20 Chase Drive, Fishkill, NY. 

Please be aware that mailing addresses in the Beacon City School District do not always coincide with the city or town of residence. So if you have a Beacon mailing address, but your residence is located in the Town of Fishkill, you would report to Glenham Elementary to vote. 

If you are unsure of your polling location, you may contact District Clerk, Kelly Pologe, at (845) 838-6900 ext. 2032 or email at pologe.k@beaconk12.org. 

NEW in the Beacon Public School Fundraising Guide: The Color-A-Thon Returns to South Ave!

 South Avenue Elementary's Color-A-Thon is the latest event added to A Little Beacon Blog's collection of fundraising efforts by public school PTO/As.

South Avenue Elementary's Color-A-Thon is the latest event added to A Little Beacon Blog's collection of fundraising efforts by public school PTO/As.

Get your running shoes on!

Registration is going on now for the second annual Color-A-Thon, bursting into action at South Avenue Elementary School. And the best part is - aside from raising money for new playground equipment for the school, as well as other needs designated by the teachers - is that this race is open to everyone! You don't need to go to South Avenue to participate. And it's really not a race - it's a run through bright powder blasts of color, thrown on you by teachers and friends positioned at designated color points.

Deadlines:
Registration: Friday, March 23, 2018
The Big Day of the Color-A-Thon: Saturday, April 14, 2018

This is one of the newest opportunities added recently to A Little Beacon Blog's Guide for Beacon Public School Fundraising opportunities.

'Tis the Season for Running and Funding

This race marks also the warming up of A Little Beacon Blog's 5K Race Guide, even though this run is only one block long! You just run or walk it three times! Seriously. I did it pregnant last year. Ok, I did not walk the block, but I did throw color on walkers and runners. Most people didn't even realize that they ran around the block three times, and some people kept running until they cleared six circuits - talk about getting some energy out!

Beacon Bulldog Swag

The Beacon Bulldogs are raising money for the Beacon High School Football Department. T-shirts and more are on sale now, but the order deadline is Sunday, April 8, at midnight sharp. Get your swag for the season!

Get all of these details at A Little Beacon Blog's Public School Fundraising Guide! Do you or your business love Beacon City Schools? Show your school pride and sponsor this Guide! Be part of making our Guides possible. Details here in A Little Beacon Blog's Media Kit.

Here's How Beacon Students Are Participating in WALKOUT on March 14th in Response to Gun Violence

A national walkout is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14, to acknowledge the tragic shooting in Parkland, FL. The Beacon City Schools have decided to participate in this movement, and have formed a plan with an administrative team, teachers and student leaders at the high school, according to Beacon's Superintendent Matt Landahl on his Superintendent Update blog.

All of Beacon's public schools - the elementary, middle and high school - will observe a moment of silence at 10 am. During that time, the elementary schools will be encouraged to "think about ways to spread kindness and love in our school, community and the world,” according to Matt. At the elementary level, the planning team was more comfortable keeping the kids in their regular routines, yet bringing awareness. There will be no walkout at this youngster level.

At the middle school and high school, students in social studies classes "will be taught ways to communicate with their local, state, and national representatives on issues important to them. We will not espouse any particular political views with this sharing but instead discuss the importance of elected representatives hearing from all of their constituents," according to Matt. Over the next few weeks, students will have the opportunity to create cards to be sent to the families of victims.

Students in the high school can attend a momentary moment of silence, and can spend it outside at designated areas on campus, which will be monitored by school staff. The Beacon Police Department will also have a presence at the secondary schools to help ensure safety.

At this time, Beacon City Schools has no plans to participate in other memorial activities on Friday, April 20, and all kids are encouraged to respect the Student Code of Conduct any time they leave school (with permission of their parents).

Upcoming Creative + Fun Events Supporting Beacon Schools! Rubik's Cubes, Movie Night, and More

A Little Beacon Blog now tracks the fundraising efforts for all of Beacon's public schools, and a few events are coming up! Movie Night, Line Dancing, Ice Cream Night - and Rubik's Cubes! See below for our roundup, and hit up A Little Beacon Blog's Public School Fundraising Guide  for dates and details.

PS: Do you love this Guide? Your business could support it (with your logo as a lead sponsor) and reach so many parents in the Beacon community! Please contact us to be a lead sponsor, and thank you!

JV FORRESTAL ELEMENTARY:
• Rubik's Cubes for Hands-On Library Learning: JVF Librarian Ms. Coleman is raising money to buy Rubik's Cubes that students can check out of the library.
• Beacon's All-Star Lip Sync Battle: This adults-only event at the Towne Crier raises money to support the Center for Creative Education's outreach programs to BCSD schools!
• Book Fair Next week!

GLENHAM ELEMENTARY
• Ice Cream & Bingo Night! Friday, March 9, from 6 to 8 pm. Kids and adults get to play bingo and eat FREE ice cream, donated by Stewart's.

ROMBOUT MIDDLE SCHOOL
• Shake What Your Mama Gave You! Zumba and line dancing to benefit the Rombout PBIS Committee!

BEACON HIGH SCHOOL
• Movie Night! In the Beacon High School Cafeteria, Beacon High School's National Honor Society is sponsoring the Valuable for Veterans fundraiser, screening the Academy Award-winning movie "Coco."

Moving On, But First...A RoundUp of the Gun Violence Issue at the Community Level

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The past two weeks have been paralyzing for a lot of people, especially parents of young kids currently in school. As the region was gripped by threats made last week all over the Hudson Valley, last Friday's Snow Day was actually kind of welcome. Parents received several robo-calls - which normally announce dreaded Snow Day closures. Instead, these were about threats made to the middle school and the high school, and how police would be stationed there. A Little Beacon Blog took time to process what has been going on around the Hudson Valley and open up coverage on it, so that we can produce future articles to help people be aware and prepared. The below links are articles to create awareness of the leadership that has been happening in the Beacon City School District, Beacon Police Department, and some cultural questions about these issues.


Consider this our Action Item in advance of the National Day of Action on Saturday, April 20.

PS: Finally, this mini-series of articles is done (hopefully!) and we are moving on, resuming our usual coverage of the goings-on in Beacon! Not only that, but it's sunny out! Hurray! Yet all signs point to a Wednesday Snow Day. <angry-face emoji> Sleds may still be available at Mountain Tops, where the superhero owners continue to show up every Snow Day with an Open sign.

Toy Guns and "No Big Deal" Guns Sold in Kid Stores - Impact on Gun Culture

 Blended screenshots of sales pages at Walmart's website, where this pink BB gun could have been sold to any prospective buyer, regardless of age (the age limit tool was broken). Walmart has since reversed its online sales policy, and now prohibits purchases of airsoft guns and toys.  Photo Credit: A Little Beacon Blog

Blended screenshots of sales pages at Walmart's website, where this pink BB gun could have been sold to any prospective buyer, regardless of age (the age limit tool was broken). Walmart has since reversed its online sales policy, and now prohibits purchases of airsoft guns and toys.
Photo Credit: A Little Beacon Blog

Growing up, you probably played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers, or countless other kid games with guns. Your finger probably became a gun. Pew-pew! Your sister's magic wand probably became a gun. Heck, maybe a magic wand counts as a gun, when it hits someone with glitter.

Guns in our culture are as commonplace as staplers, or pens. You could even buy a bullet pen! I did for my dad last Christmas. I grew up making shotgun shells with him in our basement. He had the neatest shotgun shell-making thingy that clamped to the edge of the table. Toy guns for kids are sold in toy stores, in drug stores, and on any toy store website. How could you not want a Luke Skywalker laser gun? Or a Nerf gun blaster? And with YouTube videos featuring dads and their sons in all-out Nerf gun wars around the house, shooting people becomes very normal. 

Toy Guns In Beacon

Echo Beacon, open for more than 10 years and one of Beacon's most popular toy stores, doesn't carry toy guns. Owner Karen Donohue is a mother of a daughter, and made the decision years ago not to sell toy guns in her toy store. "I chose not to sell toy guns, as it just made me uncomfortable. I've been told by mothers of boys that they [the boys] will find any sort of stick or anything, and turn it into a gun despite Mom's efforts to say 'No,'" Karen recalls.

Echo is known for carrying educational toys, and Karen is big on nurturing the imagination. "I still feel this is a better use of the imagination than something that truly resembles a gun. I have, on occasion over the years, sold miniature squirt pistols, but nothing that could ever be remotely mistaken for a gun. In recent years I've been tempted to order them again, but they still give me pause."

Fatal Mistakes

Back in 2014, a 12 year old boy named Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a rookie police officer while he was playing near a gazebo at a recreation center in Cleveland, OH. The boy was holding a pellet gun and a person called 911 to report that a person who was "probably" a child was holding a gun that was "probably fake," according to this Washington Post article. The officer was not told about the "probably" parts, and approached the child, and shot. The child died in the snow. The officer was not fired at the time, but in May of 2017, was fired for not including details about past employment when he was first hired months before the shooting, according to that Washing Post article.

Walmart Pulls Airsoft BB Guns From Website

Gun culture makes getting guns easy and a normalized part of life. When I published this article after the Parkland, Florida tragedy, I included a screenshot of Walmart's website to show how easy it was to purchase a rifle online. A reader commented that the rifle shown in the example was a BB gun, and not, I suppose, an assault weapon. The implication, it seemed, was that buying a BB gun was no big deal. Not wanting to exacerbate the debate, I removed the picture to keep the focus on finding a solution. In that time, however, Walmart announced that it was pulling rifles like BB guns from their website (see the NPR report "Walmart Joins Dick's Sporting Goods In Tighter Limits On Gun Sales"). And in an instant, the page I had just visited to buy the pink rifle BB gun had vanished.

 

From the NPR Article:
Walmart is also removing items from its website "resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys" — like the air gun Tamir Rice was playing with when he was shot by a Cleveland police officer who thought the 12-year-old was armed.

Companies aren't wanting to be associated with gun accidents or planned tragedies. So they are backing away and minimizing their liability. Any connection with tragedies is bad for business; the gun shop owner who sold the Parkland shooter one of his weapons felt compelled to hire a PR company to help issue statements. The issue of gun control has taken on a new dimension as companies get involved by limiting - or even ending altogether - their involvement.

The Mindset of Guns as Toys, Tools, and the Norm

 A page from the  Diary of a Wimpy Kid  series, where a swim meet starts with a pistol blast, scaring the Wimpy Kid.

A page from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, where a swim meet starts with a pistol blast, scaring the Wimpy Kid.

With guns being so prevalent in everyday lives, is it time to look at them differently? Would fresh perspective curb the ease with which they are used as a solution to a social problem? To a troubled, heartbroken, misunderstood teenager?

The picture above is taken from a page in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. In the book, the Wimpy Kid is forced to join a swim team. The first thing that scares him is the pistol shot to start the meet. He thinks it is a real gun, and hides under the water.

Why is a pistol used to start a swim meet? Could a whistle be used?

Why are toy pistols sold in a toy store? When a toy pistol is placed at 5-year-olds' eye level, where it hangs right next to something neutral like a slime-making kit or glow-in-the-dark bouncy ball, it conditions young minds that guns are toys.

The Not Discussed, Uncomfortable Notion of Gun Safety and Preparedness

If we consider CPR courses, Defensive Driving courses, and Fire Safety workshops to be normal and accepted practice, could Gun Safety training courses also become normal? To train prospective users that guns are really not toys, should be taken seriously, and how to use a gun in dangerous or threatening situations?

I asked Beacon's City Administrator, Anthony Ruggiero, if there had been any Active Shooter Training Workshops in Beacon. He responded that there have been in the past, when Beacon sponsored the County Citizens Preparedness Training courses, but he added that the sessions were not very well attended. He says another will be hosted in April.

Perhaps the mindset will shift, to one away from being a sitting duck, and one toward mental defense (think Bourne Identity...where are the exits? how to fight back? what everyday objects can become lifesaving tools?), planning, and rooting out the mindset of guns as toys.