Society & Culture

In Waterville, gun culture and schools’ zero-tolerance clash

Vermont Fish & Wildlife photo

By Guy Page

Traditional, rural Vermont gun culture and the education establishment’s zero tolerance for guns are clashing in the small Lamoille County town of Waterville, population 686.

According to a news report in the Dec. 16 News & Citizen, parents raffled off four donated firearms to raise money for a sixth-grade school trip for the Waterville Elementary School (enrollment 66 students). When school administrators found out about it, they were aghast.

Intrusive editor’s note: To most Vermonters, Waterville is as little-known as its ski-town neighbors to the south, Jeffersonville and Stowe, are famous. It has a store, a garage, some pretty covered bridges, a well-loved Town Hall, a llama farm, two churches, and not much in the way of industry. My family has owned a home there for generations. My lawyer dad briefly operated a gentleman’s sugarbush there in the early 1960’s. I’ve lived there off and on, covered it as a reporter for the News & Citizen, and briefly helped coach the Waterville Rapids girls AAU basketball team. The current legislator, Lucy Rogers, was our point guard.

To me, Waterville has always been a beautiful throwback to the wondrous small-town life of Old Home Day and all of your neighbors knowing you and you knowing all of them, for better or worse. When lifelong Vermonters would look at me quizzically and ask, “where the heck is Waterville?,” I would give the smart-aleck reply, “it’s on the road to Belvidere.”

When I lived there, most of the born-and-raised ‘local’ men hunted, like their daddy before them. Now back to our story…. 

Waterville voters are typically more cash-poor and property-wealthy than their suburban brethren. Historically, school budgets have tended to be tight, and parents’ groups encouraged to do their own fundraising. The four-gun raffle only came to everyone’s attention when longtime town news columnist Sue Davis reported the fundraiser in much the same, matter-of-fact way that she reports that Myrtle Smith and husband Bud visited the home of Emma Jenkins for a fun night of cards and lemonade. 

Well.

Gun-averse educators took note. As the News & Citizen reported, “For reasons obvious to school administrators and many outside observers, the Lamoille North school district can’t allow an association between firearms and their schools.” After all, a school shooting left three dead in Michigan. Gun threats have closed Vermont schools. 

The News & Citizen reported these reactions:

“It’s super important, especially in this day and age. We obviously don’t want schools associated with anything that involves a weapon,” said Lamoille North Superintendent of Schools Catherine Gallagher.

“It is incredibly upsetting that somehow this became connected to the school,” Waterville School Principal Jan Epstein said. “Safety of all is of the utmost importance to me and never would I condone a raffle that involved a gun or anything that might remotely be construed as a safety risk.”

The reaction led columnist Davis to try to explain to those ‘school administrators and many outside observers’ why, from traditional Waterville’s point-of-view, this is no big deal.

“Seeing that we live in deer hunting country it makes sense to want to raffle off hunting rifles during the deer hunting season,” she reportedly wrote in her next column. “It made a good fundraiser. I’m sure if any of the parents thought that this raffle would create a safety issue for the children or teachers at the school, they wouldn’t have had it.”

Principal Epstein has been on the job for five years, and she’s learned a thing or two about her community, as another comment reveals. “If I put on my different hat, if I take off my administrator hat and I put on my ‘I was born and raised in Vermont hat,’ then yes, I could see that,” she said. 

The mini-fracas has elicited at least one online comment on the News & Citizen website, from ‘Rebecca’ (and yes, I think I can guess which that Rebecca is): 

“I feel there was absolutely nothing wrong with this raffle. Hunting is a sport which brings in revenue to protect our wildlife, and the second amendment has ensured our rights to own firearms. To relate this raffle to violence, of any kind, is extremely far fetched. Thank you to the parents who held this raffle. A raffle which helped school children and will perpetuate an American way of life. Hope you go through with your plans of a spring raffle. Just in time for turkey season!”

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26 replies »

  1. Go Waterville parents and friends… you did the right thing. The “New World Order” wants to have you comply and submit to their rules and edicts… fight back and hopefully they will go about their own business.

    • Yes! Fight back and hopefully the out-of-state, flatland, ‘New World Order’ carpetbaggers will go away; back to the places they trashed and left to come here…

      • Not all from out of state are the demons. We have plenty of home grown Vermonters who have just gone over the edge for the progressive socialist agenda.

  2. “Safety of all is of the utmost importance to me and never would I condone a raffle that involved a gun or anything that might remotely be construed as a safety risk.”

    I guess that under that criteria, many other items should also not be allowed to be raffled:
    -food containing peanuts or any other common allergen
    -sugary foods such as cookies and cupcakes that could complicate diabetes
    -power or hand tools that might remotely cause injury if misused
    -any sharp item that could “put out an eye”
    -any heavy object which might remotely cause an injury if improperly lifted
    -any electronic device which might remotely be used to convey hurtful communications
    -any conveyance or recreational device such as car, bicycle or skis which might remotely cause injury

    A gun IS a power tool that can cause harm IF misused. It is also a tool that can be used to harvest
    wild game for food to feed one’s family. Teaching about where food comes from is a laudable pursuit of an educational facility. Hunting is a lawful activity, and is protected specifically by the Vermont Constitution. As long as the winner of the raffle is legally qualified to possess a firearm,
    WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? More culture war bull bleep….

  3. I believe the statements of the various school officials come as a result of ignorance. I’ll be willing to bet that not one has ever taken a hunter safety class, not one has ever been properly instructed in the use of firearms and certainly not one has ever been to a firing range to learn how to properly shoot and handle any type of firearm. I really think that we Vermonters should require all people moving into our state to be properly instructed in the safe and correct use of a firearm. If we fail to stand up and say “people kill not the instrument they use” we all will be forever condemned to throw sticks at the moon.

  4. Wonderful insightful article Guy Page! You explained both sides of the issue in a kind telling way. I’m wondering if Waterville has a high level of hunter/gun safety exposure that brings a greater perspective to the gun “issue”. Perhaps the school administrators could learn something from the community.

  5. I was born, and raised in Barre, and remember in the early 60s, the older kids (7th, and 8th grade) bringing their shotguns to school so they could hunt on their way back to their farms around the North End. The idea that guns are “evil” is so foreign to me it’s akin to anthropomorphization of animals.

  6. Vermont as we know it is going to die, if we let it. Here is a prime example of ” wokeness ” in
    our public school system…. liberal clowns when will Vermont Citizens say enough is enough ??

    Guns aren’t evil, it’s the mindset of liberal clowns ….wake up VT, take back our state and please
    post when you have another raffle, I don’t need any more guns, but I’ll do what ever to help if
    it upsets ” wokeness “………. Idiots !!

  7. What people, like this “educator”, do not want to understand is this: Guns operate in much the same fashion as typewriters (remember them?) pens, pencils and computers work. Pens/pencils do not create classical writing and/or horror. They require an Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf or Bram Stoker with the pen and ink. People kill people with knives, guns and cars. After that lunatic killed four Vermont teens a few years ago by weaponizing his car, nobody wanted to outlaw automobiles.

  8. Citizens of Waterville – stick to your guns. People need to stop calling a modern sporting rifle or hunting rifle a weapon. It is nothing of the sort until it is used to assault, kill or inflict bodily harm. Until it is used for nefarious purposes, it is an inanimate object and won’t hurt a thing.

  9. I would definitely buy tickets for that raffle.
    By the way the guy in the picture is my cousin from Wilmington VT, his grandson and his buck “Big Dick”.
    His grandson and the buck are both his pride and joy.

  10. That is a raffle I would gladly buy tickets for.
    By the way the picture at the top is my cousin from Wilmington VT, his grandson and his buck nicknamed “Big Dick”.

  11. Was it legal? If so, then it’s alright.
    These people raise no objections when teachers lead their students to protest the existence of police and push to defund them. THAT is illegal.

  12. We are slowly giving away our beautiful state to these Do Gooders who hold no clue to what Vermont is about…..but are willing to force their radical agenda down our throats. The same agenda they escaped from after they started the same destruction in the states left behind.

    There is nothing more dangerous than an education system with a system to indoctrinate our children.

    This is more proof the educational system is against the future success of our United States of America.

    There is nothing more DANGEROUS to our children than administrators and teaches that would violate our freedoms.

    Just because they do not agree with a gun raffle that is clearly accepted by most, does not make it unacceptable or a problem in any way.

    Is it DANGEROUS to have an equity policy in a school? It teaches discrimination?

    Is it Dangerous to have Critical Race Theory taught in our schools? I teaches white people racists!

    What is a real danger in Vermont is someone who believes that changing hats allows them to make decisions contrary to common sense.

    The ONLY hat anyone in an educational system should wear is one that helps the person wearing it adhere to our God given and Constitutional rights..

    When our schools start to stray from the curriculum they should be teaching they are wasting the tax dollars of the hard working, law abiding taxpayers in our state.

    I never thought I would witness children marching to destroy their own constitutional rights in the State of Vermont. Schools organized marches against guns in our state and encouraged OUR CHILDREN to march.

    Vermonters Take Back Our Schools!

    We need to STOP this kind of control in our state.

  13. Great support And awesome Raffle keep it up
    Thanks for supporting sport shooting and hunting 👍👍🗽🇺🇸

  14. Good article Guy, but one line caught my eye in such a way that I was prompted to comment. It was your description of the reporter trying to convince school administrators that the raffle was really “no big deal.” It really IS a big deal when people so casually dismiss constitutional rights, in this case two constitutional rights (the right to bear arms and the right to hunt) in today’s political climate. It is unfortunate that those who seek to maintain those rights are being labeled Neanderthals, even more unfortunate (although understandable) when we play into that definition by resorting to name calling and threats in our frustration.

    We need to change the narrative. Start by conceding the point that an extremely small number of stupid people tragically do stupid things with guns. But then take the high road by calmly and persistently pointing out that Vermont’s heritage and traditions do not condone such stupidity. Suggest that it is far better to teach children, at the earliest possible age, respect for firearms and how to use them properly, rather than ignoring that desperately needed education. Whipped up post-tragedy paranoia and fear will never achieve the goal of eliminating another tragedy- certainly never while the evil-doer’s only education is instead received through the university of social media. Rather than assaulting a way of life so ingrained in Vermont’s heritage and tradition, use it early and often to your advantage. I’m sure many people commenting here would willingly volunteer their time to help. Not only would that approach dismantle the walls of division between us, it might just nip that gun stupidity in the bud.

    • Re: “Good article Guy, but……”

      But what? To whom are you speaking, Mr. Benning? To Mr. Page? To the totality of commentors to this article?

      Who are you saying should “Start by conceding the point that an extremely small number of stupid people tragically do stupid things with guns”?

      While I agree with your ‘point’, I continue to bristle at the underlying implication – that, in general, conservative, old school Vermonters (not to mention those of us raised similarly in other States), must be lectured to ‘Start by conceding’ that stupidity exists.

      Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

      I’ll concede to you a benefit-of-the-doubt at this time – that you intended to address the woke, liberal progressive authoritarians who have infiltrated and taken over Vermont’s public education system – not Guy Page or VDC commentors – all of whom clearly have ‘Been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ too.

      To lecture that ‘We need to change the narrative’, that ‘we’ don’t already know that stupid people exist, is an affront to the old-fashion common sense Guy Page and other commentors here clearly already understand. We’ve all been trying to “change the narrative” – “to teach children, at the earliest possible age, respect for firearms and how to use them properly” for as long as I can remember. That ‘we’ are the ones to change the narrative isn’t the issue at hand.

      Update your position, take a current stand, as did Rep. Vickie Strong recently on Covid rules. Compose and present your lecture on VT Digger, Seven Days, the Brattleboro Reformer, the Burlington Free Press, VPR, and the other woke media outlets where the “Whipped up post-tragedy paranoia and fear…” really thrives. There’s no need to preach to the choir here – – unless, of course, your intent is to pander to us while letting the woke progressives carry on with their authoritarianism.

  15. Principal Epstein and superintendent Gallagher, need to be barraged with letters and phone calls, letting them know the citizens they work for do not agree with their behavior concerning this issue. I really feel an apology is in order as well.

    • Superintendent: Catherine Gallagher. 96 Cricket Hill Road, Hyde Park, VT 05655. P: 802-888-3142 | F: 802-888-7908.
      Waterville Elementary School. Principal: Jan Epstein. 3414 VT Route 109, Waterville, VT 05492. P: 802-521-5550 | F: 802-644-2726

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