What are we teaching our kids?
Dear District 37 School Board,
We are deeply concerned and hope that our children will not suffer any ill will for our beliefs and speaking out. We are asking that the board, the administration and teachers take our quandaries seriously and respond to the ethical dilemma we, as a community, find ourselves in.
We’ve sat with our concerns for a week, wondering the best way to deal with the flyer that came home in our daughter’s folder: the raffle of a 9mm semiautomatic weapon for the music program. We’ve questioned own values, beliefs and principles as well as our upbringing in a small rural community. We are dismayed that the board has allowed for the raffle of a 9mm pistol and that this has become a normalized form raising funds for school programs. We are distraught that school budgets are gutted to the point that this idea was even proposed by a local organization to our teachers. Don’t get us wrong, we are not mad at the teachers for accepting what seems like a golden carrot in a state where fiscal uncertainties grow deeper by the day. The financial crunch of District 37 is an epidemic to small schools everywhere, and we are not blaming teachers for this situation. Surely, there is a better, less divisive way to raise funds. We are concerned that we are not honoring the principles and values we are educating and instilling in our children.
We believe the raffle of a 9mm handgun is hypocritical and wrong. From Pre-K until high-school graduation, our children are taught that violence is not the answer and will not be tolerated. Students are taught to respect themselves and others, to be courteous, to be responsible for their actions and to make right choices. No bullying or harassing, no threats of any kind, or being involved in any acts of verbal or physical aggression. We insist our children use appropriate language and gestures. The handbook has a long list of actions and behaviors that will not be tolerated. Many of those actions refer to prohibition of weapons and firearms, and zero tolerance for verbal or physical violence. However, we are sending mixed messages by asking our young children to raffle off a 9mm pistol for the music department.
This raffle is misaligned with the core values of nonviolence being taught to our children and what is written in the school handbook. The purpose of this weapon is nothing other than to kill another human being, is it not? As a gun owner, we must be prepared, mentally and physically, to shoot and kill another human being if we intend on using a pistol for self defense weapon. Target practice is secondary to the purpose of this weapon. We are not against responsible gun ownership, or using a shotgun to procure food for the family, but we question the board’s judgement allowing this raffle to happen and using our children to sell tickets for a weapon.
This raffle is incongruent with the values being taught at school, namely zero tolerance for violence. We are saying to our children “Do as I say, not as I do.”
We’ve heard the argument that this 9mm is a tool. Yes, but ask yourselves, what is this tool’s intended use? A shovel is a tool used to dig holes. Yes, it could be a weapon, but that was not its original intent. The original intent of a 9mm is to kill humans.
We’ve heard that only licensed FOID card holders may acquire this gun once the raffle is drawn and that the gun will never be on school premise. Not that that makes me feel any safer.
“At least 265 children under the age of 18 picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else with it in 2015, according to numbers compiled by the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, and 75 children have died in 2017.” In Illinois, 1,247,398 gun background checks were conducted in 2015 using an incomplete database, which fails to block gun sales to the hundreds of thousands of prohibited purchasers whose mental health records are not in the system. (http://everytownresearch.org/notanaccident/)”
Will the winner of the pistol be required to give a complete mental background check before taking the gun from the dealer? Does this person have a history of physical, mental or substance abuse? How is the school board protecting our children from harm? Is there a gun safety class being taught?
Children are exposed to gun violence on television, on the internet, and on video games. Why are we encouraging our children to sell raffle tickets for a weapon? Why aren’t we raffling off a lawn mower, fishing gear with tackle, or compound bow, something less lethal?
If the rational behind raffling a 9mm pistol is because it’s a “good money maker” for the music program, then why not raffle off a $500 goodie basket of medical cannabis from the local dispensary? It’s a strictly regulated industry, people must be examined by their physician, and go through intensive background checks, including fingerprinting. (Seems silly this is not required for a FOID card.) It appears the same “rules” would apply: the winner needs to have a licensed card to win the raffle item, the cannabis basket, or gun, are never allowed on school grounds, and it would make about the same amount in fundraising proceeds, if not more. Sounds nuts, doesn’t it? Is it an appropriate raffle item? Probably not.
Our final concern is the future of this raffle item. We all would hope this weapon would go to a responsible owner, one that understands the importance of safety locks and gun safes. However, life doesn’t always turn out as we hope. Should THIS gun ever be handled by a child and cause death, accidental or willful to another child or adult…ask yourselves, “was it worth the $1000-$2000 the school received in fundraising monies?” We would hope deep in your hearts, each and everyone one of you responsible for allowing this raffle to happen, consider the potential consequences of raffling a weapon, using our children to sell tickets and the mixed message it sends. Sit with the potential outcome and tell us you still made the right choice.
We wish things were simple like they were back in the “old days” when bake sales, car washes and spaghetti dinners were cool things to do for fundraisers. We understand our school is in dire straits, but our expectations of the board is to practice what is preached. This, my friends, is far from a “right choice,” when there are less lethal options available for fundraising.
Tabitha and Eric Tripp