DIXON – A crowd of about 100 eighth-grade students gathered in Reagan Middle School’s gymnasium Monday afternoon just before 1 p.m. Not an unusual sight – it was their P.E. period, after all.
But on Monday, those students were joined by members of the Dixon Police Department to talk about something a little more serious than correct push-up form: firearm safety.
The series of lectures provided throughout the day to Dixon middle-schoolers came in response to the recent shooting death in Rock Falls, in which two friends were allegedly handling a gun, and one of the boys ended up being fatally wounded. Illinois State Police continue to investigate the shooting they’re calling accidental.
Dixon officer Doug Lehman provided the talk for the students, which covered topics such as what to do, should one find themself around a firearm; and the difference betwen active-shooter video games and violence on television and the consequences real-life games like that can have. Lehman also asked students to consider how the release of a firearm — even if accidental — could affect not just the person shot, but also everyone around them.
“Something happened a few weeks ago,” Lehman said, introducing the story about the Rock Falls shooting. “Some teenagers, for whatever reason, had some access to firearms, and they thought they should handle it ... look next to you – you probably know everybody in here. ... It’s not just two people involved; it affects everybody.
“You would have families upset, friends upset, the whole community upset, and possibly, you could be in trouble with the law — even if it was an accident,” he said. “That’s up to the courts.”
There was also a question-and-answer portion during which the students, seated evenly in rows on the gym’s hardwood floor, asked questions ranging from what to do if someone is accidentally shot, to what legal consequences could result from such a situation.
The idea for the talks came from Tony Quadraro, Dixon officer and Reagan Middle School resource officer, and was a direct result of the tragic death of Rock Falls High School student Matt Anderson, Quadraro said. Police Chief Danny Langloss and Lt. Brad Sibley were also on hand.
“We’re going into spring break now,” Quadraro said. “So kids are going to have some idle time, and summer’s just around the corner. We want to make sure we keep our kids informed, keep them safe, and keep them educated.”
Neither Rock Falls nor Sterling Police have plans to conduct a similar program in their area schools.