The owner of a Georgia private school is attempting to set the record straight after she faced an onslaught of criticism for taking first- and second-grade students on a field trip to a gun range, telling InsideEdition.com the uproar is without merit.
Tammy Dorsten, owner of the Holdheide Academy in Woodstock, recently brought children, who were learning about Annie Oakley and Davy Crockett, to Hi-Caliber Firearms to view relics from the time of the legendary American sharpshooters.
“The field trip was about ancient artifacts that were found in American history, found in the curriculum they were studying,” Dorsten told InsideEdition.com. “This was simply an artifact that was taken out of the case... the kids were able to look through the [guns’] sites and see the difficulty Annie Oakley would have had to shoot a card 25, 50 yards away.”
Parents signed permission slips to allow their children to go on the field trip, and after the day out, the school posted on its social media page about the experience.
“Our elementary students have been learning about Tall Tales in American history, so today was Annie Oakley day! We got to hold a Winchester Rifle which was hand crafted in 1894 which was very similar to Annie Oakley’s 22 rifle!” the school wrote in a Facebook post that included several pictures of children holding the weapons and has since been removed.
The school faced backlash almost immediately, as comments poured in about the choice to bring children to a gun range. Others contacted authorities.
Bright from the Start: The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, a state government agency that presides over childcare needs for Georgia children and families, said in a statement that it received numerous emails and messages on social media about the field trip, and launched a subsequent investigation into the school.
It later announced it found “that the program was caring for preschool-aged children in an unlicensed space meant for a private school.
“On Monday we issued a cease and desist order for this program," the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. “Meanwhile, our investigation continues into the licensed child care program.”
InsideEdition.com has reached out to the government agency for comment.
Dorsten said that the grades her school accommodates are run out of two schools and that children are moved according to their own developmental readiness.
Officials told the school to move its pre-kindergarten class to the lower school, which they did, Dorsten said.
“At the end of the day, this is just so crazy because it was just an artifact that happened to be at a local business and I took the kids to see that artifact,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think [I would face backlash].”
Dorsten said she has since received death threats and messages from people who say they hope her school closes and she is arrested.
“I thought it was a great field trip; the kids were thrilled,” she said. “It’s just crazy [the backlash] we’ve gotten when we had parental permission. Had they had said no, I would never have overstepped that boundary.
“You would’ve thought I gave them Uzis and they were shooting polar bears,” Dorsten said.
Dorsten said the learning experience the children had in being able to appreciate how skilled Oakley and Crockett were to be able to hit targets as far away as they did outweighs the uproar.
“I stand in the truth that we do great things for kids and we’ll continue to do great things for kids,” she said. “We all have these children's best interests at heart. That’s what should be focused on.”