Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Parents Give School an “F” in Bully Policy

Friday, April 18th, 2014

School administrators in Lincoln, Nebraska are scrambling to do damage control after students were sent home with a list of instructions on how deal with bullying. And they should be, because whoever is responsible for authoring and dispensing this list to children is, at best, dangerously ignorant of what bullying is. At worst, they are fostering an atmosphere of violence and fear which can have lasting, harmful effects.

We have learned much about bullying in the past several years. It has been recognized, not as a rite of passage that children need to go through to “toughen up,” or as normal “kids will be kids” behavior to be tolerated… but as a deviant, defiant, criminal activity. ‘Think that sounds a bit dramatic? Think again: bullies are predators in training. When they engage in this activity, they follow a criminal mindset–seeking out targets, zeroing in on them, and moving in for the kill. If allowed to continue unchecked, their actions typically escalate in severity and number of victims. By the time school bullies reach adulthood, many have graduated into full-fledged criminal activity.

There are over 2 million bullies right now in our schools. Nearly 3 million students are threatened or injured with guns, knives, or other weapons, physically assaulted, verbally abused, and/or have personal property stolen, damaged, or destroyed by bullies.

Schools and community organizations are still struggling to find the best ways to handle bullying. But thankfully, it is now understood that aiding and supporting the victims is of equal, if not greater, importance. So, you can imagine the outrage of so many parents of 5th graders at Zeman Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, when their children brought home a flier stating that, if they are targeted by such predators-in-training, they should, among other things,

  1. not verbally defend themselves (“The bully is our friend. We defend ourselves against enemies.”)
  2. not to feel fear, even if the bully is verbally harassing or physically threatening or assaulting them (“Fear is something we feel toward enemies, not buddies.”)
  3. not to physically defend themselves (“We attack enemies, not friends.”)
  4. show they are physically wounded, but not angry because (“We want the bully to feel sorry for us and apologize. If we’re angry, he won’t feel sorry for us and apologize.”)
  5. not to “tell” on the bully (“Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?”)

As a radKIDS Instructor, a teacher, an adult, and a human being, this entire list of “guidelines” makes me angry. All this talk about “friends” and “enemies” is ridiculous. Telling a child how they should feel is wrong. Comparing a child’s reporting an incident of bullying to “tattling” is wrong. And taking away their right to defend themselves from harm is gutting.

Whoever compiled this list of nonsense clearly has no understanding of bullying. Fortunately, parents of Zeman Elementary’s 5th graders are on top of the issue, and have called BS on the flier and its directives. Now the school itself needs to step forward and right the wrongs.

Who’s Got the Power?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

child with eyes covered











You’ve probably all heard about the sexual abuse allegedly committed against young boys by a former Penn State football coach. So, I’m not going to talk about that. You probably also know about the university’s alleged cover-up of the events. So I won’t go into that, either.

There is one point that I came across in my reading about all of this, and that is what I want to bring to your attention. Red flags waved and alarm bells sounded in my mind when I came across the words of the young man currently identified as Victim 1 in the case. When his mother asked him why he didn’t tell her what was happening, why he didn’t tell the coach to stop, or even run away from him, he replied simply, “You just don’t say no to Coach Sandusky.”

That’s it. “You just don’t say no.” Not to the coach. Not to the teacher. Or the doctor, the minister, the camp counselor, or any other adult or authority figure in a child’s life. Why not? Because we teach children to be “respectful” of adults, which is often interpreted as being obedient, doing what they’re told. We teach them to have “good manners,” not to “talk back” or “act up.”

And that’s fine. I’m certainly not against teaching kids to respect their elders. But there’s something else that we need to teach them: No one has the right to hurt me. ‘Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not. No one likes getting hurt, sure. But kids need to be taught that it’s not okay for someone to hurt them–not other kids, and definitely not adults who should be taking care of them. In fact, it’s so important that kids understand this, it’s the first thing we teach RAD Kids when they take Violence Prevention classes.

The next thing we teach them is, “If someone tries to hurt me, I can make it stop.” How? There are lots of ways, all stemming from the child’s own feeling of empowerment. And that’s the key: our children must realize that they have the power to stop violence against them. If someone is hurting them (or trying to), they don’t have to be respectful. They don’t have to use good manners, say ‘please,’ or remain quiet. And they don’t have to wait, and suffer, and hope for some other adult to come and rescue them. They can rescue themselves!

The third principle we teach is, “If someone hurts me (or tries to), it’s never my fault. So I can tell! Tell a trusted adult who can help. If that adult doesn’t help, keep telling until someone does help. Again, this is about empowering your child. You can be sure that the Bad Guy who tries to mess with your kid will tell them to keep their “special friendship” a secret, and may even give them presents and take them on fun outings to buy their silence.

Abusive relationships are all about the abuser having power over the victim. You can have polite, respectful children who, at the same time, are empowered to keep themselves safe. Teach your child that no one is allowed to hurt them, and that they have the power to make it stop.



Predators Use Games to Grab Your Kids

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Fiverr Color Image 1 Hand Out of TV Screen RESIZE

Predators are playing your Wii… in your house… to get your child.

At a Child Safety Seminar the other day, an agent from the North Carolina Department of Justice told me that the newest way child predators are finding victims is through video games. XBox… Wii… Nintendo DS…. They like smart phones and tablets, too. In fact, whatever the latest technology,the  Bad Guys have figured out how to work it to their twisted advantage.

Can’t be, you say! My child is playing in the safety of our living room; I can see him/her with my own eyes! Yes. But the game in their hands connects to the internet. Predators connect to the internet to find kids–and they know where kids gather. As the DOJ officer explained, it’s easy for an abductor or sex predator to make contact with young, innocent players by chatting and sending messages about the game they’re playing. Kids are flattered that someone they don’t even know wants to talk to them about their strategy, technique, and scores.

Once initial contact is established, luring a victim out of parents’ protective reach is simple. In fact, for these guys, the whole process is virtually as easy as reaching through the tv screen to snatch their next victim.

It’s an internet-enabled world, and kids are taught from preschool onward how to operate a computer. So, throwing the Wii out the window and forbidding our kids to touch a keyboard is not the answer. Then what can we do to keep our kids safe? Talk to them! Tell them never to put their personal information out onto the ‘net. No one needs to know their real name, age, where they live, what grade they’re in, what school they go to… even what sports they like or that their pet hamster’s name is Scooter. The Bad Guys might try to trick them into revealing important facts with questions like, “What kind of job does your mom or dad have?” Make sure kids know that any attempt by another “gamer” to make contact could be dangerous. If it happens, they should simply stop playing and go get a parent. The connection should be immediately ended, and the contact reported to police.

Yesterday it was desktops and laptops. Today, it’s smart phones, iPads and games. Tomorrow, it will be… who knows what? Doesn’t matter. The rule is always the same: Don’t give your personal info to anyone over any form of technology. Just as legend says vampires cannot enter your home unless you invite them in, predators can’t get to your kids unless they are allowed to. By repeatedly stressing that we don’t give out any personal info over computer/phone/gaming systems, etc., you keep the Bad Guys from getting in.



Pillars of Your Community

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

My dad died on a Sunday morning. By early afternoon, their home was filled with friends bringing food and comfort to my mother. I stood in the kitchen, refilling the coffee pot, when a man walked in and introduced himself to me.

“George Smith. You must be Pam; I’ve heard a lot about you. ‘Glad you could get here.” He leaned against the counter and began to reminisce about his 10-year friendship with my father.

“He and I mentored over at the high school. The kids were always so happy to see him walk in the place. He’d help ’em with their homework, help ’em fill out college applications…. He did some repair work over there, too, when they needed something done. He was a real pillar of the community. The kids loved him, and he loved them!”

“Really?” I asked, stunned.

I looked at George and thought, “Did you know he brutalized his own?”

Pillars of the community–those folks we hold up as role models to be admired, emulated. The ones we wish we could be more like: the sweet old man in church who’s a “grandpa” to all the little kids; the police officer who puts his life on the line to protect us every time he puts on his uniform; the wise doctor who knows just what to do in an emergency. The teacher, the coach, the others in your community who you think well of, who you’re friends with… who you trust to make smart, sound decisions. Would you leave your children with them? Should you?

Take the community of Woolwich Township, in southern New Jersey. A 911 operator there named John Desper fielded calls from panicked individuals in all kinds of emergencies. He calmed them, dispatched the correct authorities to their locations, and talked them through their crises until help arrived. It’s an emotionally-tough job; not everyone is cut out for it. Then again, not everyone would do what Desper liked to do on his off-time: have sex with babies.

Yes, he enjoyed not only looking at pictures and videotapes of infants and toddlers in sexual positions, but having sexual relations with them as well.

This former 911 operator is currently serving 25 years in prison.

William Rhoades was  described as an “upstanding citizen” in the community of Phoenixville, PA. A retired teacher, he coached Little League baseball for years. Families loved him, and proudly watched their sons grow in the game under his guidance. One day, a little boy told his mother that the coach had been touching him in a funny way. Upon investigation, it was discovered that touching wasn’t all the coach did–and not just to this little boy.

Rhoades was found guilty of raping 4 boys between the ages of 4 and 11, repeatedly over several years. He videotaped his crimes so he could “re-live them afterward,” and kept a graphically-detailed journal of the events as a keepsake.

He is now serving 25-50 years.

There’s the Cleveland, OH mom of 4 who had “so much love to give” that she brought 3 foster children into her home. Concern by school officials led to a police investigation, which in turn led to the arrest of foster mom Renee Lester on charges of abusing her foster children by means of withholding food, locking them in a filthy basement without heat, light, or beds to sleep on, and locking them out of bathroom facilities.

The case is ongoing.

We can look into the cozy home of an “average family of four” in a small New York community. The boy had learning disabilities and struggled through life. The girl, a couple years younger, was bright but quiet. Both parents were college-educated. The mother worked part-time off and on, but was mostly a stay-at-home mom. The dad worked hard and always provided for his family. The bills were paid, the kids had music lessons, dance lessons, and after-school activities. There were vacations every summer when school was out. Friends came over to play with the kids, and the neighbors frequently stopped by to chat with the parents. Typical family stuff.

Except for the beatings. Except for the times–and there were many, so many–when the hardworking provider would slam his son against the wall, throw him to the floor, and pound his fists into him with the hand-to-hand training he learned in the army to fight an enemy to the death. That was before he took off his belt. The daughter’s screams of terror were met with, “You wanna cry?? I’ll give you something to cry about!”

There were times he squeezed his fist around the boy’s throat, choking off his air supply, and the child, not even 10 yet, could only flail helplessly in agony. One time, a smash to the mouth burst a lip. The daughter actually heard the blood spurt across the room and land on the tile floor. That sickening sound will never be forgotten, along with the tortured cries of her brother.

Once, what would have been a normal disagreement between a parent and child was resolved by this father pulling a knife out of a drawer and holding it to his son’s throat. The daughter stood by then, too, terrified, wishing she could disappear.

You never really know most of the people in your community behind the day-to-day facade. They’re probably not going to tell you they like to have sex with young children, or that they lock their kids up in the dark so they can’t “steal things.” The father in this last story retired from the job he worked so hard at, and moved to Florida. He mentored in a high school until he died. All the kids loved him, and he loved them.

He just brutalized his own.







What’s in a Name? Too Much Information

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Heading to my gate in the Delta terminal the other day, I found myself following a family of four. Mom and Dad led the way; behind them were two young boys, Nathan and Daniel. How do I know their names? Because they were emblazoned in big, bold letters across the rolling backpack each little guy was pulling. You’ve probably seen these things. They look like this: http://www.personalizationmall.com/cat_image/600/8999-8819.jpg

Nathan and Daniel seemed to love their personalized luggage. I, however, could not share their enthusiasm. While their parents sat, one reading the newspaper and the other checking messages, the boys stood at the window, watching planes take off. If I were of a nature to want to harm children rather than protect them, how easy would it have been to go up to them and say, “Hey, Nathan! Daniel! I didn’t expect to see you guys here!” Pretending that I know them makes them think I’m not a “stranger,” therefore, not a Bad Guy.

I could go on with my ruse: “Remember me? I’m a friend of your folks’. I met you guys at school a few months back. My little boy is in Nathan’s class.” Children are generally taught not to question adults, and while they might be embarrassed that they don’t remember who “I” am, they won’t reveal this. They’ll just accept my word as the truth.

So, when I continue, “Hey! Can you guys come to that little shop and help me pick out some candy for the plane ride? I’m really hungry, but I don’t know what’s good. And I’ll bet you two are experts when it comes to candy!” they’ll come along willingly.

As a child molester, kidnapper, or worse, I’ve just gotten a bonus–two kids for the price of one! What made it so easy? I knew their names. And the craziest part of the whole thing? Without realizing it, their parents are the ones who told me.

Labeling your child’s tee shirt with their first name, their backpack with a nickname, or a team jersey with their last name is unnecessary and dangerous. It gives personal information about them to everyone who reads it–information that those who don’t know them should not be privy to. Why take the chance with your child’s safety?

3 Safety Tips for Women

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

This morning’s local news featured a report of a suspected serial rapist in the area. At least 7 women have been attacked and brutalized in their own homes. In response to this article, I offer 3 safety measures that women can take to protect themselves.

Tip #1: Buy a peephole kit for each entry door into your home or apartment, and install them immediately. If you don’t want to do the job yourself, have your boyfriend, brother, neighbor, or landlord do it. Then, don’t open your door to anyone you do not recognize. A rapist doesn’t care what hour of the day it is; he will attack when it’s most convenient for him. If someone comes to your door in the middle of the night, maybe saying there’s been an accident and he needs help, call 911 right away. If he’s on the level, he’ll get the help he requested. If he was trying to fool you to get inside your home, you’ve kept yourself safe and alerted the police. (They might even be able to catch him before he gets far.)

What if you look through your new peephole and see someone holding up a badge? Same thing applies–do not be blindly trusting and open the door to a rapist. Call the police and find out if they sent an officer to your address, and for what purpose. If it turns out that the guy standing on the doorstep is legit, great. He’ll understand why you needed to double-check his ID. If the officer on the phone says that no one was dispatched to your location, that means an imposter–wearing a costume and pretending to be a law enforcement officer–tried to get into your house. But you kept him out and yourself safe.


Tip #2: Rent a PO box and use that as your address on checks, forms, and written applications. A small post office box is inexpensive, and it’s a great way to protect your private information. Plus, many people use PO boxes for business mail, so using it as an address is not unusual.

It seems like, everywhere we go these days, we’re asked for personal data. And this often has nothing to do with the product or service we’re interested in; it’s merely a way for companies to get marketing feedback. But how do we know the trustworthiness of the people we’re giving our information to? Or those who will see it further down the line? The guy at the cell phone store, the receptionist at the salon, and the cashier at the supermarket where you use your Best Customer card… these people don’t need to know where you live. Granted, they’re probably not interested–but someone else may be. And that someone may have access to confidential files. You don’t want them to have access to your home address.


Tip#3: Keep your car keys next to your bed at night. First, if you need to leave your home in a hurry, you won’t waste any time looking for them. Second–and more important–most cars now come equipped with alarm buttons on the key chain. Test yours; it can probably activate your car’s alarm from inside the house. If you hear someone creeping around outside or trying to break in, switch on the alarm. It will most likely send a would-be attacker running. Then, make sure you’re safe, and call 911.