We live in a dangerous world. Too many parents are willing to stick their head in the sand and avoid sensitive subjects at all costs because they're "uncomfortable" discussing it with their children. Most of us, however, are not. We protect our children by doing and saying everything that we feel will keep them from harm's way.
SCOPE, a paid-for afterschool program in Suffolk County, NY, decided that some discussions are not worth having. Or, for that matter, safety measures and lockdown procedures policies are also not necessary until they are government mandated.
GiGi Kearns, a beloved SCOPE teacher, was fired last week after 14 years with the program. Here's what we believe, based on what we know:
SCOPE appears to have decided, at relatively close to the last minute (right before a government mandate was pending), to ask all within their after school program to do a lockdown practice. They provided no policy or clear direction on what or how to impose the lockdown (i.e. what do you do if all the security guards are gone at the school). GiGi, a former NYPD officer, a comforting and constant presence, and a childcare teacher who has been beloved by parents and children alike, implemented the procedure in our grammar school.
My son, along with a few others, were misbehaving. GiGi quietly pulled them aside and emphasized to them why it was very important to follow their directions. One child brought up Sandy Hook. She responded - explaining that a bad man can come into a school and hurt others, and how important it is to trust your teachers. She showed them a picture of Adam Lanza, and photos of the parents outside of the school. And that was that.
My son came home and asked me what Sandy Hook was, and I told him. I also told him it's important to listen to your teachers and not misbehave in these circumstances, and that several teachers in Sandy Hook were heroes who saved several lives that could also have been lost had it not been for them.
Unfortunately, ONE parent in our school did not feel the same. ONE parent out of dozens took this incident to the Principal, then the head of the SCOPE program. Without any thorough investigation, discussion with any other parents, and, very likely, reacting with fear that their organization's sloppiness in not providing procedures and policies for the lockdown would be outed, used GiGi as their scapegoat, and unceremoniously fired her.
Over 300 parents signed a petition to reinstate GiGi, including countless calls and emails to Assistant Director Michael O'Brien and Director George Duffy. Responses from Mr. Duffy have been non-existent, and emails back from Mr. O'Brien have been curt and dismissive.
So, the overriding message to teachers and childcare workers from administrators (who, like ours, have no contact with the children, and very rarely with the workers who care for them day after day for very little pay) is if a child asks about Sandy Hook, ignore them - or lose your job.
Why was she REALLY fired? Maybe SCOPE administrators feared their lack of policy would come back to bite them. Maybe they were looking for a way to get rid of some of their older employees and this provided them their "out." Maybe these administrators (who are paid very well for a not-for-profit) are thinking more about their own jobs and the skeletons in their closets and, in their panic, decided to abolish the situation the way they do with most things - with a knee-jerk reaction.
What really happened? We, the parents, do not know. SCOPE will not talk to us about this decision at all.
Teachers have to be allowed to teach and sensitive subjects must be allowed to be breached. Sandy Hook was a tragic event that no one wishes to see happen again, but we should also never forget. Our world has become so lawsuit conscious and so politically correct that truth, candor, and life lessons have also become casualties in our society's effort to sweep everything under the rug when a few ultra-sensitive people feel uncomfortable. It cannot happen.
We support GiGi and want her back. If you agree, let us know.