The Duncan Banner
Across the country, parents were fearful Monday about letting their children return to school. It was the “what if?” question and “that would never happen here” thoughts which ran through their minds after Friday’s shooting on an elementary campus in Newton, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children, still considered babies at ages 5, 6 and 7. Also, six educators were killed as they fought to protect their students.
Parents in Stephens County said they had fears and concerns, but of those that spoke with The Banner Monday, many said they trusted the teachers to handle the news if it became a school topic. Most parents though, agreed that keeping the news from the younger children was the right thing to do, and a few said they wanted to talk it over with their children, mostly as a reminder of how important it was to listen to their teachers.
Nela Hartsozk has a 6-year-old in pre-first grade at Comanche Elementary School and said she is super protective of her child.
“I pretty much shelter her from stuff like this. I haven’t talked to her about this. She has a hard time dealing with stuff like that anyway. She gets emotional if a dog dies,” Hartsozk said.
Hartsozk said her biggest concern was her daughter could possibly overhear other children at school talking about it. She was confident the teachers would address the issue, in an age appropriate manner.
“I know a lot of the teachers and they care very much about their students,” she said Monday after the school day was complete.
“I dreaded her going to school, but she has not mentioned anything to me. Comanche is pretty good about communicating with us, by email or they will call us. They are very good about direct communication with parents.”
Sarah Hamilton Sutton, shared with The Banner through Facebook, her thoughts.
“I have a fourth grade girl and a first grade boy. I did not want to take my kids to school this morning. I cried all the way home. It would take way too long for law enforcement to get to my kids school,” she wrote.
“I told my kids what happened Friday; then I told them if their teacher or other adult in charge tells them to do something to listen — period! I told them about the little girl who played dead and didn’t get shot and that it was a wonderful idea.”
Jennifer Smith said her 11-year-old daughter, who attends Mark Twain Elementary, sometimes seems fearless, so she made sure to sit down and talk with her, echoing Sutton’s instructions.
“I told her to follow the teacher’s instructions and do what they say immediately. My biggest fear is copycat killers,” she said. “I honestly contemplated keeping her home. It was all I could do to drop her off.”
Sutton also wrote, “My daughter asked Saturday if they can have school at home from now on. I told her it was a thought before we had kids and we are still debating it. This morning they started out crying that they were scared. I reassured them that their school faculty loves them and will do everything they can to protect them.”
Haylee Root said she didn’t want to have such a discussion with her pre-kindergarten child about the shooting, but did so, in an effort to be proactive.
“I decided to, for fear she would hear about it at school. I kept it brief, and explained that even though bad things happen sometimes, we cannot live in fear,” Root said. “I told her that her school works very hard to keep her and her friends safe. I reminded her that we should pray for those families and also pray for our schools, that such a tragedy never happens in our town.”
Christina Adkins, who moved to Duncan eight years ago from Aurora, Colo., remembers vividly the Columbine High School shooting and said she was in high school at the time.
She has three children, an 8, 9 and three-year-old. Her oldest children attend Woodrow Wilson Elementary and her youngest is in the Head Start program at the Irving center.
“I did talk to them about it. My oldest two knows there are bad men out there, but I told them our schools are safe and that they would be OK. I gave them a big hug and told them to tell their teachers thank you and to give them a hug,” she said. “But it was hard to let them go. It really opened my eyes to spending more time with them. I’m also going to take this week to teach them to pay it forward. We’re going to do something for another child, maybe buy them a coat, or a toy.”
Adkins said she’s always been of the “stranger danger” lesson when it comes to her children.
“But right now, I don’t even feel safe for them walking back and forth to school. I do think the school is handling it well,” she said.
Hartsozk was glad that this week is a short week, with school to dismiss Wednesday for the Christmas/New Year’s break.
“I plan on doing more things with my children,” she said.
Sutton also shared this, “Pray for God’s hedge of protection around each child daily. Things like Friday at Sandy Hook can make a positive change in this world if we learn from the mistakes that were made and learn from the caring and loving teachers who put their lives in front of others.”
Joe Ligon, who is pastor at First Baptist Church in Marlow, and a former Marlow Public School superintendent, said he addressed the tragedy during church services Sunday. He knows there are many sides to this, with some raising concerns about it being a gun issue or a God issue.
For him, he doesn’t see it as a gun issue.
“For me, evil walked into that school Friday. It’s indicative of this time, and the depraved world we live in,” he said. Some people have questioned God’s presence also, he said, but he reminds them that God is omnipresent and he has not left the schools.
“A lot of parents have done their best to protect their (young) children from the news of this,” he said.