Parents push back on eliminating gun replicas from Gettysburg reenactment

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Desert Shadows Middle School Gettysburg re-enactment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Desert Shadows Middle School Gettysburg re-enactment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
The battle of Gettysburg re-enactment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) The battle of Gettysburg re-enactment. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

The Paradise Valley School District plans to review the 13-year-old battle of Gettysburg reenactment curriculum at Desert Shadows Middle School at an upcoming site council meeting. Some parents have expressed concern over the use of Civil War gun replicas made of wood.

But other parents say they stand behind the school’s process and lessons. Dona Whitney’s older son participated a few years ago and her younger son Nicky is currently researching the Union soldier he’ll play during the reenactment in mid-November.

“Instead of reading it in a book, which is what I remember, they actually have the students participate over a course of two to three months, picking out what character they want to be,” Whitney explained. “It’s also about researching that time and what they went through. They have to write a paper on the history of the individual they’re representing.” 

Whitney doesn’t want to see the weapons go, she says eliminating them takes away the experience.

“If anything, it educates them on what war really is as opposed to being something they may see on a video game. This is really feeling it and learning about what happened,” she said. “These are smart kids that want to be engaged. I think it would take away the experience for them.”

As a mother, she understands the concerns in light of recent shooting tragedies, but feels the school has things under control.

The Paradise Valley School District sent the following statement to AZFamily:

“Since 2004, Desert Shadows Middle School has held a Gettysburg reenactment as part of the 7th grade Social Studies curriculum, which requires students to be familiar with key battles and people of the Civil War.

As part of the assignment, students choose a name of a Civil War soldier who fought at Gettysburg and are given the choice of which Civil War era item they would like to recreate. This includes a uniform, regiment flag, a reenactment muskets or a reenactment officer sword. All replica swords and muskets are made entirely of wood with the assistance of a parent who has woodworking skill. These items are brought to the school covered in a beach towel or a garbage bag and are collected at the gates upon arrival to the campus.

Parents are invited to attend the culminating activity to participate in a large-scale production of the battle involving more than 450 students. During this reenactment, every effort is made to ensure the safety and well-being of students, staff and parents. In the past, members of the Phoenix Police Department and Phoenix Fire Departments have also attended the event.

PVSchools is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff. In light of the events that occurred, Desert Shadows Middle School’s Site Council, which is a committee of parents, teachers, students and community members, will meet to review this year’s Battle of Gettysburg reenactment. The School Site Council meetings are open to all parents to attend.”

That School Site Council meeting will be held on October 18 at 4pm.

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