Caesar Rodney teaching elementary students gun safety

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

As part of Caesar Rodney's Child Protection Unit, students will learn firearm safety tips.

As part of Caesar Rodney’s Child Protection Unit, students will learn firearm safety tips.

Here’s a little known curriculum item: Caesar Rodney School District has been teaching firearm safety to all students in pre-K through fifth grade since 2019.

Gun safety is only one section of the five-to-six lesson unit on basic safety that also touches on sexual consent, fire safety, unsafe environments, abuse, pet care and more. 

“It was not intended to be a gun safety curriculum,” said Jennifer Martin, supervisor of health and wellness at Caesar Rodney. “It’s just a part of a larger safety curriculum that we’re required to roll out and guns just happened to be a piece of it.”

The children never handle a gun.

“It talks about never, never touching fire, never, never touching a gun, never never touching a dog that you have not asked permission to touch, so it’s very general at first,” she said. “Then it gets more into specifics with personal body safety which is under Erin’s Law.”

The curriculum, which was vetted by the state’s Department of Education under Erin’s Law, is called the Child Protection Unit

That unit is part of the Second Step Program, a national instructional initiative that aims to help students build social-emotional skills, like nurturing positive relationships, managing emotions, and setting goals, so they can succeed in school and in life. 

Delaware is one of 28 states to adopt Erin’s Law, which requires all publicly-funded schools in Delaware to train employees and educate students about personal body safety, sexual abuse and how to maintain appropriate interactions between children and adults, including coaches and volunteers.  

The district sends out letters to the families of its 3,800 pre-K to fifth grade students each hear before the safety classes begin. It’s required by Erin’s Law and describes the three skills that students will learn, which are:

  • Personal safety: Students will learn important safety rules, such as safety with guns, sharp tools, and fire, and when riding on wheels or in cars. They will also learn ways to help them decide if something is safe or not. 
  • Touching safety: Students will learn about safe, unsafe, and unwanted touches as well as rules about touching private body parts. They’ll also learn to say ‘no’ to unsafe or unwanted touches, and to tell an adult if someone breaks rules about touching private body parts.
  • Assertiveness: These lessons will also give students a chance to practice asking an adult for help, telling an adult about an unsafe situation and being assertive to get out of those unsafe situations.

The note sparked a lot of attention and discussion on the Women’s Defense Coalition Facebook page. Many members were not aware of the classes.

“This will be an excellent program especially for young ladies, teaching them how to properly handle a firearm and protect themselves,” said Justin Jones, a Milton resident.. “Things happen and police can’t always be there in time. If this education stops just one rape or abuse case then it’s worth it.”

Stephanie Snead commented that if the parents aren’t going to teach about boundaries and safety, someone should.

“I agree, if it’s done correctly, this could be beneficial,” she said. “Sometimes going back to the basics is key.”

Martin pointed out that the district has been sending out letters and teaching the Child Protection Unit since 2019.

Instruction is by school counselors or school social-emotional learning coaches, who typically are also school counselors, but are not hired under a school counseling degree.

“Sometimes it’s done in consecutive weeks and then sometimes it’s done as part of students’ rotation of essential arts,” Martin said. “So it might be a student who goes to PE one day, goes to art one day, and then they’ll see the counselor one day for their counseling class, and this is what they’re teaching in that unit.”

Instruction on gun safety instruction will include deciphering the best actions to take in various scenarios. 

“An example would be, you go to your friend’s house, you’re playing hide and seek and see a gun,” Martin said. “What do you do, and the things that they teach are never, never touch it, and always, always tell an adult.”

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