A kidnapping can happen so quickly! On March 16, 2012, 15-year-old Sierra Lamar disappeared near her home in Morgan Hill, CA sometime between a text message sent to a friend and nine minutes later when she didn’t show up to her school bus. Police have arrested a suspect and are searching for her body. As our hearts go out to Sierra and her grieving loved ones, we don’t want this tragedy to happen to even one more child!
This crime is the fault of the attacker, not of Sierra or her family. While we don’t know exactly what happened to Sierra, it is possible that self-protection and personal safety skills might have protected her from harm. Before we let them go anywhere without adult protection, we must prepare all children and teens to recognize potential danger and make safe choices immediately.
Children and teens need to know how to: stay aware of what they are doing even while texting; prevent someone acting friendly and harmless from tricking them; be cautious even if approached by someone you know; keep out of reach of someone in a car when you are on the side of the road; and not to take a ride even from an acquaintance without checking first. The instant they think they might face danger, young people need to be prepared to immediately react by moving away, yelling, running, making a scene, and fighting to escape.
Whether kids are going to visit a friend, get something from the neighborhood store, or on their way to school, they need to be prepared before they go anywhere without adult protection. This one-page Kidpower Safety For Kids On The Way To School Checklist (download the pdf) that we’ve compiled for parents shows how to TALK with your child, WALK with your child, and PRACTICE with your child.
TALK together to make a Safety Plan so your kids will know:
- They are safest staying in groups and, if they are younger, with an adult you select.
- To always get permission from you or another adult in charge before they change their plan about going anywhere with anyone, whether it is a stranger or someone they know.
- To always get your permission about where they go, who will be with them, and what they will be doing.
- That a stranger is someone they do not know well, can look like anybody, and might know their name.
- That most people are good and most strangers are good, but they do not know what someone is like just by how that person looks or acts.
- To NOT get close to a stranger, talk to a stranger, take anything from a stranger, or go with a stranger – unless they have their adult’s permission.
- If they are old enough to talk to a stranger, to stay out of reach and not give personal information.
- To move away toward safety and get help if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or tries to approach them.
- How to get help in an emergency from people you’ve designated along their route.
- To tell a trusted adult every time someone makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.
WALK together to determine:
- The safest route to follow on the way to and from school on foot, by bus, or by bike that will avoid isolated places, difficult streets to cross, and other hazards.
- Where to go and who to ask for help if kids have a safety problem on route — preferably adults you have introduced them to — in a church, store, neighbor’s house, bus, etc.
- What to do if kids get lost, if they cannot stay on their route, or if someone bothers them.
- Each child’s safety readiness for going on her or his own without adult supervision.
PRACTICE together until you are SURE your kids are prepared to:
- Use their awareness to notice and avoid safety problems from people, traffic, or other possible trouble.
- Act aware, calm, and confident in every situation.
- Move quickly out of reach from a stranger or anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Follow their safety plan even if a friend tries to persuade them to do otherwise.
- Find a place with people to help them if they get lost or have to change their route.
- Yell “NO! I NEED HELP!” and run to a safe place to get help if they feel scared.
- Yell, pull away, hit and kick to escape from an attack.
- Be persistent in getting help, even if adults are busy or impatient.
- Find and use a telephone so they can call a trusted adult for help or 911 in an emergency.
Not sure WHAT to say or HOW to practice? Kidpower offers a positive, practical approach to teaching child and teen safety.
The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults gives step-by-step information on how to protect kids from kidnapping, bullying, and abuse and shows how to empower children and teens with skills for taking charge of their safety.