Lebanon residents (R-L) Brian Green, Dina Mador and Dawn Green at a May 29, 2012 public meeting sparked by an incident in which a kindergartener brought a nonfunctioning gun to school for "show and tell." Photo by Al Malpa
An incident involving a kindergarten student found last week to have a gun in his/her backpack (the identity of the child is not being released) has put a local superintendent in the hot seat.
While the fact that a 5-year-old came to school with a gun is in itself disturbing, the main complaint Lebanon parents expressed at a public meeting Tuesday (May 29) was the way the school handled the situation.
Parents are particularly unhappy about how and when they were notified; the school district mailed a letter to parents on Wednesday, the day after the incident occurred.
Parents say they should have been notified immediately – i.e. by email or phone.
According to Connecticut State Police, on Tuesday, May 22, the afternoon bus driver was delivering students to their homes when she became aware that one of the kindergarten students had a gun in his/her backpack.
It was determined that the gun was not loaded or even working. The bus driver returned it to the child’s parents, according to police.
Lebanon School Superintendent Janet Tyler responds to comments from angry parents at a May 29, 2012 meeting at which she was criticized for not notifying parents immediately about a gun found in a kindergartener's backpack. Photo by Al Malpa
At last night’s meeting, parent Dina Madore, yelled at Tyler and said parents should have been notified on Tuesday.
Parent Julie Robbins agreed and said she had no idea about the incident until a neighbor told her. Robbins’ child was on that bus, she said, and it was “upsetting” to hear about it from someone other than the school.
“We couldn’t talk about it with our child because we had no idea,” Robbins told Tyler.
Tyler responded that she believes she did what she “felt was right.”
“I have kids as well,” Tyler said, and added “(I am an) advocate for children. I would never ever want to hurt a child for any reason.”
However, Tyler said, if the same incident happened tomorrow, she would call “every single person” to let them know.
In an interview today, State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said the incident was “blown out of proportion” because the gun actually was an antique replica that was incapable of being fired.
“It was not a firearm… it was not a ‘gun,’ by definition,” Lt. Vance said.
He also said the child brought the gun to school for “show and tell.”
At last night’s meeting, Tyler criticized the bus driver. “The driver’s failure to timely notify the school district severely handicapped our ability to investigate and inform parents,” Tyler said. It was hours later that the district was notified, she said.
Parent Brian Green said it is Tyler’s responsibility to communicate with parents. “This can’t happen again,” he said. “You are the face and you are the leader (of our school district).”
Green added that if Tyler was working “anywhere else,” she would have been fired already for the “abysmal” handling of the incident.
Lebanon resident Ron Cowles called for parents to do more than complain about a gun incident and take part in developing better protocol for Lebanon Schools, at a May 29 2012 public meeting. Photo by Al Malpa
Resident Ron Cowles was the only person at the meeting to stick up for Tyler and the rest of the school district’s administration.
Cowles said he understood the parents’ reaction, but urged them to become a part of the process to fix school policy. “Everyone needs to be involved. One person cannot do it alone,” he said.
Cowles said he looks forward to seeing how many of the parents and other community members will step up. “Help this woman (Tyler) to make it better,” he said.
Tyler asked for e-mail addresses from the people at the meeting in order to notify them of the next public meeting during which new protocol for incidents such as this one can be developed.
After the meeting, Tyler said she is “confident” the district can move forward.
However, Lebanon Board of Education member Stephen Nelson said he hopes the incident is discussed at the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12 at the Lebanon Middle School Media Center.
Posted May 30, 2012 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
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