Saturday, March 15, 2003

Teachers learn about child safety

By Jill Fahy

 

Staff Writer

 

ONEONTA — This month, students in Oneonta's elementary schools will be taught to yell as loud as they can, say "no," and be mistrustful, all in the interest of their own safety.

 

About 140 city school district elementary teachers attended a Child Abduction Prevention program workshop Friday at Oneonta High School.

 

Obtained through a state grant, the program is designed to teach students how to recognize and diffuse dangerous encounters with potential abductors, sexual abusers and even bullies.

 

"Being young and carefree, kids are vulnerable to dangers they don't know even exist," Allan Shulman, executive director of KidzSafe Foundation in Montreal, told teachers during the afternoon session.

 

In his presentation to educators, Shulman referred to an abduction case with a happy ending — Wednesday's recovery of 15-year-old Utah resident Elizabeth Smart, who had been snatched from her home at knife-point nine months ago by a man.

 

Shulman also talked at length about pedophiles and how they use lures, such as dogs, candy or kittens, to draw children into their sexual traps.

 

Teaching young children to yell in times of trouble and say "no" to "tricky" people are lifesaving tools that kids will learn through the program, Shulman said.

 

Age-specific sessions for students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be held throughout the week of March 24. The program is run through Yello Dyno, a musically-driven safety curriculum created 15 years ago by a mother in Texas.

Children, Shulman said, will learn how to recognize and avoid dangerous situations with the aid of music, props and "Yello Dyno" — a big, yellow puppet.

 

Young kids are also vulnerable to other dangers, such as parental abduction and Internet stalking, Shulman said.

 

Making sure the family computer is placed where it can be monitored by a parent and looking for signs that a child may be using a chat room, such as suddenly shutting down the computer when Mom or Dad enters the room, are all ways for parents to protect kids from Internet predators.

 

A big part of the Yello Dyno program also includes training teachers and parents how to talk to their children about these sensitive topics, and how to help kids remember the safety rules they learn.

 

A workshop for parents will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 24, in the high school auditorium. The session will be repeated on at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 in the Greater Plains elementary school cafeteria. Child care will be provided at both sessions.

 

Shulman said he urges parents to attend either of the workshops.

 

"The consensus is that parents need to know," Shulman told teachers. "Parents have a lot more time with kids than you do. They need to get this information into the kids' heads."

 

Included in the program is a teacher curriculum that includes age-specific videos and a workbook that goes with it.

 

Karyl Sage, a retired district elementary school teacher and the district's grant writer, said the state has mandated every district have some type of abduction-prevention program.

 

Kim Mahler, curriculum coordinator for the district, said the program will be a valuable tool for teachers.

 

"This seems like it will give them great guidance," she said, "on how to address these issues."

 

Jill Fahy can be reached at jfahy@thedailystar.com or (607) 441-7221.