School Fires Staffer for Telling Kids Truth About Sandy Hook

Gigi Kearns, former SCOPE supervisor

There’s an unexpected job opening for an after-school childcare supervisor in Long Island. Program manager Gigi Kearns says she was unceremoniously fired by SCOPE Education Services of Suffolk County for what her supervisors felt was an unforgiveable lapse of judgment: during a lockdown drill, Kearns took the time to explain what had happened at Sandy Hook to the elementary schoolers under her supervision.


Apparently the drill --during which Kearns was responsible for 30 children in the second through fifth grades -- wasn’t being taken seriously by many of the students at first ... until one child called out that they had to practice lockdowns because of Sandy Hook. When the other kids asked what Sandy Hook was, Kearns sat down with them and explained what had happened. Kearns also happens to be a retired NYPD officer, whose past life often included counseling children about safety issues and talking about frightening subjects with a gentle touch. But at least one parent of a SCOPE student was upset that Kearns took the time to explain the Sandy Hook tragedy, and the program administrators have said that Kearn’s decision to do so cost her her job.

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It sounds like did the right thing by taking kids’ questions as seriously as was warranted, and I’m not the only one who thinks so: some SCOPE parents have signed up on asking to have her reinstated, and several children have been passing around their own petition, too.

We live in a day and age where “shooter on campus” lockdown drills are a sad fact of life for many children. Pretending that those children don’t know -- and don’t need to know -- why those drills are happening doesn’t give them enough credit. Kids aren’t stupid: they understand perfectly well that they’re not hiding under their desks in a locked classroom with the lights out to practice for a surprise party.

Our kids are not growing up in the same world we did; a quick glance over Wikipedia’s list of school shootings is enough to tell you that. They know that there are bad people out there; otherwise, they wouldn’t have to live through the reality of lockdown drills. If we’re going to ask them to deal with these drills -- if we’re going to ask them to live in the messy world we’ve made for them -- the least we can do is answer their questions when they come up.

A child asking “What is Sandy Hook?” during a shooting drill deserves an answer. Because even if we wish that our kids never had to know about or worry about things like Sandy Hook, they’re already worrying about that kind of thing after the first time they’re asked to practice hiding in the teacher’s prep room and locking the door. Because worse than being told about a terrible thing that happened is being told that there are things too terrible to even talk about -- but that still need to be prepared for.


At what age do you think children are old enough to discuss tragedies like Sandy Hook?

Image via CBS

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