By Gary Walker

In this photo posted to nextdoor.com, a masked youth plays with a bright orange toy gun in the playground of Glen Alla Park

A youth dressed in black and pointing a bright orange toy gun at people in Glen Alla Park — his or her face concealed by a skeleton mask, adding to the creep factor — has set off alarm bells for some local parents, igniting an online debate about proper attire, play behavior and parenting standards in an era of school lockdowns and mass shootings.

Westchester parent Jan White posted a photo taken Dec. 1 in the Del Rey park’s small child playground to nextdoor.com, along with an open letter to the youth’s parents.

“You may not have any issue with your child playing in this mask and with toy weapons at home, but on behalf of all parents THIS IS NOT OK AT A PARK. There are small children who are easily scared, young children who are easily influenced, and parents who don’t care to have to explain this as ‘fun and games,’ she wrote. “I hope you can work with your child on the appropriateness of play and stop allowing this.”

The post elicited a variety of responses — most of them supportive, but some taking issue with her point of view.

“You are not speaking on behalf of me. There are too many snowflakes in the world,” wrote Westchester resident Brian Jones, “snowflake” being a derogatory term for people deemed overly sensitive or too easily offended.

Inglewood resident Daniel Efthymiadis echoed Jones’ sentiment, writing that parents “are overreacting.”

But Tracy Thrower Conyers, a Westchester resident and a realtor in Marina del Rey, said parents are right to be worried, given the potential  dangers that children face today. Her daughter’s South Bay high school has conducted lockdowns and active shooter drills, prompting conversations at home about safety.

“These days, kids live in a constant state of red alert and it’s heartbreaking. Every day that we send our kids to school these days is a trust exercise,” she lamented.

“This type of play should be done at home but not out in a crowd, only because of all the school shootings and drills that go on. It’s in poor taste. But I’m all for play — that’s part of learning,” posted Irene Romo of Westchester.

White said she is not advocating for parks to ban toy guns or masks.

“I do, however, firmly believe that even ‘play’ threats of pretend harm to children who are not playing in a child’s play group or with a party is unacceptable. I also believe that purposefully wearing a mask or garb designed to scare others, when not celebrating Halloween or participating in a party of any kind, is equally unacceptable,” she said.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Send letters to jpiasecki@timespublications.com.

Share