Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Race and rumors in Disturbia

It's been a disturbing week in Neverland. There are some people close to me who are facing tough issues. One bright ray has been Fly, who although he isn't sleeping well lately, turned 19 months on Monday.

The main disturbit, though, was that a person who worked in the nursery at the church we go to was found carrying a gun. While working in the nursery. And apparently, a child saw it.

The nursery worker wasn't fired because the church didn't have a policy against weapons; the church didn't think it needed such a policy. (The church has a policy against weapons now, because of this situation.)

The church also decided it didn't need to share this information with the parents, and that's where the Fly family household became even more disturbed.

Word leaked out about the gun, and a handful of parents found out. They told other parents, of course, and the story got embellished.

The gun discovery happened six weeks ago, and yesterday was the first time someone from the church sat down and talked with parents about it. The discussion was polite, but we moms didn't pull any punches. Mostly what bothers us about this issue is that the church didn't tell the parents, and that the nursery worker wasn't fired.

During the discussion, I suggested that if the church had let parents know right after the nursery worker was found with the gun, there wouldn't have been so many rumors going around. But instead, the church kept it quiet while the few parents in the know (not me) spent weeks getting upset and wondering what really happened and spreading stories around the church. Some families even left the church. This all could have been avoided if the church would have been up front with everyone. Now the church is doing some damage control.

The nursery worker decided to resign over the gun issue (and over another unrelated situation). Many parents feel the threat is gone because the person isn't working in the nursery anymore, but some of us are still wondering why the church didn't act more quickly and why it tried to keep things quiet (leading to rumors).

But there is a twist in this story.

To some people in the church, it was a unique situation because the nursery worker is a man. And he is black. In a nursery full of white grandma-type workers.

The minister who spoke with parents yesterday said an organization advised the church not to fire the nursery worker because he is black -- that he might take it the wrong way and sue the church. This of course caused some parents to claim the church was more interested in not getting sued than it was in protecting the children.

Now, the church I go to, I'll say it's mostly white. But there are a good number of black people, including many from the Caribbean (some for whom English isn't their first language), lots of Hispanics and a few Asians. There are also more mixed-race couples in this church than any other place I've been to (the ex-nursery worker is married to a white woman, and they have a son about Fly's age), so I didn't think race was an issue in this church. But apparently, it is.

Fly is colorblind

All of this makes me so unhappy on so many levels.

Fly wasn't there when the gun was discovered, but at the meeting with the minister yesterday, I pointed out that even if the ex-nursery worker had a concealed-weapons permit (which he does), the permit doesn't allow him to take it into a school. I don't know if a church nursery would be considered a school, but the church also has a preschool in session during the week, and the man could have been carrying his gun with him when the nursery was open at the same time school was in session -- a misdemeanor, perhaps. I pointed out that he might have brought his gun every time he came to work in the nursery. The minister then dismissed my comment by saying, "Well, now you're just shooting arrows in the dark," which hurt me because I don't think that's true (the man could very well have carried his gun more than that one time, including when he was watching Fly) and because it seemed as though the minister was trying to discount what I was saying: do you want someone who has such poor judgment in bringing a gun to a nursery looking after babies and toddlers? To me, that is the bottom line. Not that the church didn't have a policy against weapons. And certainly not that the ex-nursery worker is black. It's just, who is looking after our children?

I understand the church was thinking about its liabilities. And the minister pointed out the church wanted to show this man compassion, that he had finally found a church home where he was loved and accepted, and that the church didn't want to leave him with a bad taste in his mouth about church, so to speak. I think that compassion is admirable. It concerns me, though, because the appearance is that the children and parents were lowest on the priority list.

If you can't feel your child is safe in a church nursery, though, you can't feel he is safe anywhere. That is just a truth to wake up to.

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Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

Yikes - a gun?!
I hope that never happens again. I also hope that our kids are always safe.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

So, it sounds like what they're saying is that if he had been a white man they would have fired him immediately? That is so wrong and so racist.

The fact that the man thought it appropriate to bring his gun into a church nursery speaks volumes to his judgement...regardless of his race.

I don't feel sorry that he was fired. He did it to himself.

Hope that your church finds better ways to handle situations in the future. Sorry that this happened at your church.

Hope that the other things you're dealing with get better too.

7:04 PM  
Blogger jodifur said...

wow, um, wow.

They so made the wrong decision. And just goes to show you, you need a policy on everything.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That's ridiculous and scary. I'm so glad everything turned out okay and he didn't hurt anyone.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Black or white you don't bring guns around kids. I would be very upset at the attitude that those in charge had about the safety of the children.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Guns in the nursery, wow. That would make me nervous about the church, for certain!

2:46 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Oh wow. This is a scary situation. I agree with the poster above who said this man's judgment was severely lacking. He should have been fired, regardless of his race.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Melissa @ Banana Migraine said...

Very bad judgment on his part - black or white. It sounds like it wasn't handled very well by the church either. Ugh. I'm glad everyone is ok and there was no harm done to any of the children.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

He wasn't fired. He resigned, several weeks after the gun was discovered.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Cathy, Amy and Kristina said...


I'd say the issue -- permits and race and compassion aside -- is this:

Guns and children do not mix.

That's just common sense. And if someone can't figure that out and feels a need -- ??? -- to bring a gun into a CHURCH NURSERY, well, I just don't think that person is necessarily a good fit in that environment.

Regardless of age, race or religion. It's just common sense.


10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many issues at play here. First being Canadian I do not really understand the right to bear arms (why in the world would you need a gun?!?! Bear ... ok .... deer meat tastes good but I have yet to see one in church!)

Funny thing i, it didn't even cross my mind what race the employee might be until you mentioned it.


I think relief that the employee is no longer there, and that no incident occurred is justified. The church totally should have informed the parents.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Staci said...

Wow...that's scary! I think you are so right in your concerns. Good for you for being so straight forward. They safety of those kids should come first...not some adult's feelings!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Thank goodness nothing happened, and I'm glad that the situation seems to have resolved itself, even if the path was less than ideal.

3:25 PM  

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