My Voice My Community
Gun violence influences students' service-learning project

Prevalence of guns spurs conversation

Germeik Turner, a 6th grader, and Thomas McDonald, a 5th grader at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, have football practice at Olney Recreation Center. So it’s understandable how, after a shooting incident there this summer that wounded four young people and killed one, they would feel concerned about walking home after the practice sessions.

Guided by teacher Alison Barnes, they talked about that experience in conjunction with a more recent incident that occurred when Officer Charles Cassidy was fatally shot on Halloween morning. Adults and young people alike have been shaken by these and similar occurrences in their community. Dashaun Young shares with the class that his step-dad owns a barber shop across from where Officer Richard Decoatsworth was shot in September. Dashuan says his step-dad was so upset by that incident that he “messed up on a customer’s hair.”

Many of the students say some of their family members own guns. And several students themselves have taser, BB or paint ball guns. They’ve discussed the distinction between people who own guns for sporting purposes and those who own them for protection or safety reasons. While it is early in the project’s evolution, the students have mentioned they might like their research and ultimately their service to connect with gun regulations and licensing or with helping other students at the school understand the implications of gun violence.

When asked what a next step might be, Thomas suggests they “Ask some police officer to visit us,” an idea his classmates support. To that end they have begun to formulate a list of questions they would pose: How does a police officer use his/her gun? Do they carry taser guns? Were they friends with Officer Cassidy?

At this stage it’s not clear exactly how their project will unfold. What is abundantly clear, however, is that these young people are excited by this work and eager to move forward with it.