It is that time of year again: back to school. This is a time of year that not only affects families with youths, but the entire community. School zone lights are back to flashing, bus stops, and kids walking to and from school, all of which means it is time for all of us to be more cautious.
Some kids will be going to school for the first time or to a new school. Even if the youths are not taking the same route, or a new one, over the summer their safety rules may have been forgotten.
At CAASA we talk a lot about safety and awareness, in hope of preventing even just one person from becoming a victim of a crime. Here we would like to offer some tips for parents and guardians out there to share with your youths.
1. If your child will be walking to school or a bus stop, before school begins walk the route with them. Teach them how to stay aware of their surroundings and observe all traffic rules. Look for significant landmarks that might be on the route, such as traffic signs or a large tree: something that will remind your child they are on the correct route. Find a “safety place” on the route or near it, such as a relative or friend’s house, a business, someplace they can run to if they need to find help.
2. Let your child know that if anyone bothers them and makes them feel uncomfortable, scared, or confused to tell a trusted adult immediately. If an adult approaches your children for help or directions, remember grownups needing help should not ask children for help; they should ask other adults.
3. There is safety in numbers. If other children in your area are walking the same route to school or a bus stop, talk with the parents about a “buddy group” where all the children walk together.
4. Any items or clothing that may show your child’s name should be left at home. Never have the name visible to others, as this could be a way for a stranger to approach your child and act as if they know them. Teach your children about the tricks someone may use to try to confuse them or engage them in conversation.
5. Check with your child’s school to ensure emergency contacts are up-to-date. If a friend or family member may be picking the children up from time to time, ensure they are aware of the school’s procedures. Remind them to CHECK FIRST before doing anything that is not part of regular routine.
6. Teach your children to yell! Yes, we know they already know how! Teach them a phrase which is not common with playing youths such as “This person is trying to take me” or “This is not my parent”. Teach your children how to make a scene by kicking, screaming, and resisting if someone tries to grab them.
7. Teach your child about instinct. That funny little feeling you get in your stomach when something doesn’t feel right, such as a car driving slowly behind them or someone walking behind them. Teach them to get to the nearest trusted adult for help.
8. In the event that your child may be lost or injured, make sure they carry a contact card with your name and telephone numbers. This card should be hidden from plain view.
9. Come up with a “safety word” with your child. It should be something that wouldn’t come up in regular conversation, such as “Pepper”. If your child is not in a safe place and feels they cannot speak freely, they can use a phrase such as “Tell my dog, Pepper, I love her”, which would tell you your child needs help. The safety word should be something only you and your child will know.
10. Check the Nevada Sex Offender Registry at www.nvsexoffenders.gov to see if there are sex offenders living in your area regularly.
We hope these tips are helpful and wish everyone a safe school year!
This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.
Community Advocates Against Sexual Assault
P.O. Box 1338
Winnemucca, NV 89446
775-623-2328, 775-623-2312, 775-247-2395
The mission of CAASA is to empower those victimized by sexual violence through advocacy and crisis intervention and to raise awareness in the community about the cause, impact, and prevention of sexual violence.
Be sure to check out our monthly column in the Humboldt Sun every 2nd Friday of the month!