SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — With all the national discussion surrounding children and gun control, South Pittsburg leaders decided to create a yearlong program to spotlight children's safety, education and general well-being.
City officials recently proclaimed 2013 "The Year of the Child."
Mayor Jane Dawkins said the program will focus on children from infancy to high school graduation.
"While Washington argues gun issues and people across the land scratch their heads as to how such a tragedy [like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School] could take 20 babies and six adults, we in our small town are going to lay the groundwork to educate and protect our children," she said.
Dawkins said she wants young children to be able to identify the "good guys" who are "safe adults," such as parents, teachers, counselors, ministers, police and firemen.
Older children need to be able to identify "bad guys" such as bullies, drug dealers, thieves, criminals and social deviants, so they can learn to use their intuition and common sense, she said.
The city's fire and recreation departments will hold activities later in the year, officials said, and the South Pittsburg Housing Authority will work on ways to celebrate the concept of families staying together in the home.
"We have to start cultivating not just good physical health, but good mental health in our children at a young age," Dawkins said. "Yes, they need to be disciplined, but they need to be told daily they are loved and they are worth something in this world. They should be our point of pride."
City Commissioner Jimmy Wigfall, one of the town's athletic legends, said he is interested in "coaching up" kids who may not have made a sports team they've tried out for, so he can encourage them to keep trying in spite of a failure.
"Remember, our town is not so big that we can't watch after our kids and take care of each other," Dawkins said. "I pray each night for God to keep us safe."