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A teacher — and a mother — speaks on school gun violence

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Teacher Devon Treharne, with Kelly Colligan, the class of 2016 salutatorain, at graduation ceremonies.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Teacher Devon Treharne, with Kelly Colligan, the class of 2016 salutatorain, at graduation ceremonies.

Like parents across the country, Devon Treharne sat with her children to have a discussion in the wake of the Florida school murders.

Gathering James, 11, Regan, 10, and Brady, 7, around her, she asked them what they had heard and if they had any questions.

“We talked,” said Ms. Treharne, a teacher at Shelter Island School who lives in Southold. During the discussion, her youngest looked up and said, “I know my teacher will keep me safe. But if I get locked out of the classroom, if I’m in the bathroom, what do I do then?”

Ms. Treharne paused, before saying, “He’s seven. Seven years old and worrying about that. It makes it difficult putting them on the bus every morning.”

She started her career in education two weeks before September 11, 2001. She teaches English grades 8 though 12 and is the faculty adviser to the staff of the school newspaper, The Inlet.

Speaking with her students about the horrific killings in Florida, she noted that many were heartbroken, and they “broke my heart because they said they have never gone to school when they felt completely safe. They always have, every day, in the back of their minds, [thoughts of] who could get in here? What would they do?”

One student told her that whenever she’s in a hallway alone, she’s always looking to see where the closest exit could be.

“That’s the climate students live in,” she said.

Some students said that living and going to school in a safe community like Shelter Island was a preventive against gun violence, but others, Ms. Treharne said, reminded their friends that the same thing was said about Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Parkland, Florida.

“I hope that the small, peaceful communities we live in on Eastern Long Island are not naive to think it couldn’t happen here,” she said. “There is no place where this couldn’t happen.”

But if the students are at times frightened and cautious, they are also taking a lead in finding solutions, the teacher said. “Our young people are so fed up that they will help us force changes so needed to keep our schools safe,” she said. “I’ve never taught adolescents so ready to vote and let their voices be heard. That’s where I’m placing my hope.”

Ms. Treharne “absolutely” believes that assault rifles should be banned and arming teachers is “ludicrous.”

“It would fundamentally alter the role of educators and put me, personally, in an educational environment I would not feel comfortable with,” she said. “We are teachers, not security guards or police officers.”

A safe learning environment is the highest priority for her, she said, but weapons have no place in a classroom or on the hip of a teacher.

The school’s faculty and staff will meet this week to reassess procedures and school security measures, she said, noting that schools are “willing to pay thousands for curriculum consultants. We should be hiring security consultants to be sure we are doing all we can to keep our building and our kids secure.”

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