Today, we received a report that while a student in the White Knoll Attendance area was waiting for a bus this morning, that student was approached by a stranger in a vehicle. That stranger asked if the student needed a ride. At that time the bus pulled up, and the student immediately reported it to the bus driver. That driver then called it in to her supervisor, administrators at the school, and the School Resource Officer, who also quickly contacted law enforcement.
While no one was hurt today, we do find the driver’s behavior concerning. For that reason, we are asking you to talk to your children, and we have provided some tips that you can use to have that conversation. Many of these tips come from materials developed by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
You should know that our school counselors cover “stranger danger” with elementary students during lessons associated with Erin’s Law, and we wanted to make sure you had resources that you could use to talk with your children at home.
Your children will remember this information better if you not only explain it but also demonstrate it. Play the “What If…” game with your child. This is an excellent way to prepare your child for a potentially dangerous situation. Pose a situation. “What if a person drives up in a car and asks you for directions?” Then, ask your child to respond by teaching him/her the correct response. “I would quickly get away from the car. I would not help him.”
Another great strategy is to role play with your child. “You are playing in the park and notice a stranger watching you. Show me what you would do.”
You can also teach your child:
• to step back rapidly, turn and run in the opposite direction if a stranger approaches them on the street while making as much noise as possible (scream).
• to be cautious around strangers, that a stranger is someone they don’t know, that strangers don’t have to look and act scary, and that strangers can look and act nice and friendly and still be strangers.
• to phone home to tell you where they are —especially if they change locations.
• to come home before dark.
• to go to a popular, busy or familiar place — never a deserted place — if someone follows them in a car or on foot and tell an adult there immediately.
• to never go over to a car or truck — even if an adult signals or calls to them. They should know that adults should not ask children for directions.
• to step back rapidly, turn and run in the opposite direction if a stranger approaches them on the street.
• to ride bikes, play at the playground and go places with a friend or friends — never alone.
• to never talk with or accept gifts from anyone without your permission.
• to go back to the school for help if they are waiting for you to pick them up after school and someone else drives up and says you sent them.
• to demand a secret password or code phrase that only family or emergency contacts would know.
• to scream “HELP!” if they are in trouble and, if a stranger grabs them, to kick and attempt to break loose.
Other tips for parents…
• Know where your child is at all times.
• Do not let your child go into a public restroom alone.
• Do not leave your child alone in the car, in the toy section of a store or wandering in the mall.
• Do not put your child’s name — first or last — on hats, caps, jackets, bikes, wagons, etc. Children respond to their first names. They will think a person who uses their first name is familiar and friendly.
• Know your child’s friends and those responsible for supervising them. Under supervised children are vulnerable.
• Never belittle any fear or concern your child has — real or imaginary.
• Help your child practice saying “no.” We are taught to be polite, to do as told and to be considerate of other people’s feelings. This makes saying “no” difficult for all of us.
Teach your children the following “most common things” strangers might say or do to trick them:
• “Your mother has been hurt. She’s sent me to bring you to the hospital.”
• “Would you like to go for a ride on my motorcycle?”
• “Do you know where Oak Street is?”
• “Can you help me find my dog?”
• An adult (not in uniform) may pretend to be a police officer.
• An adult may offer them candy/gifts or offer to play ball or a game with them.
• If there was a real emergency and I need someone else to pick you up, I will send someone you know with our secret password.
As a parent, I believe it is important to remind our children about safety. I am not sending you this to cause you worry. I also recognize that there could be rumors started by sending this letter. But, today, rest assured, everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do. Everyone is safe, and I am sending this because I believe that working together we can keep our children safer than we can by working alone.
Dr. Greg Little, Superintendent