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Learning about body safety

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

Sgt. Terry Hall will be returning to Huntington County to lead body safety discussions within elementary schools, with the hope of empowering students to be aware of their bodies and to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable.

This discussion has been on a rotation between groups of elementary schools, the middle school and the high school. This time the workshop will be returning to Horace Mann Elementary, Andrews Elementary, Lincoln Elementary School and Flint Springs Elementary schools this year.

Jan Williams, executive director of Youth Services Bureau (YSB), said the content of the discussion will vary depending on the students’ ages and will be age appropriate. She said kindergarteners and first graders will be together, second and third graders will be together and fourth and fifth graders will be together.

With younger kids, Williams said he will talk about body parts and that it’s ok for the doctor and for guardians to check their bodies but that it is not ok for strangers to do so. For fourth and fifth graders, Williams said he will go through ways perpetrators try to trick them.

“They’ll trick them into giving out information on social media, they’ll trick them into doing things that they know they’re not supposed to do and then use that as leverage,” she said.

For example, Williams said sometimes perpetrators will offer a kid a cigarette or a beer and if they give in to those things and the perpetrator then touches them inappropriately the kid may be too afraid to talk since they had initially taken part in something they knew was wrong.

“The kids are afraid to talk because they know they weren’t supposed to smoke or they know they weren’t supposed to do whatever, so he explained to them you’re wrong in doing that but it is never ever your fault if they touched you and you need to tell someone,” Williams explained.

She said Hall is constantly working on data and will go into jails to talk to inmates about what they did, to get a better idea of what’s going on.

“He’s constantly talking to law enforcement across the United States on what the trends are, what things are happening,” she said.

As for the importance of being intentional in having these conversations, Williams said they really want all of it to become second-nature for the kids. She said when they first started introducing the discussions many years ago, it felt like a shock to the community because either kids hadn’t heard about it or parents didn’t talk about it.

“We really want this to be a matter-of-fact. We want the kids to know how they can help protect themselves. We want the kids to know that they’re okay and that they’re never at fault for becoming a victim,” she said. “ … we want to empower the kids, and we want this to be a repetition that they hear … We don’t want this to be something they hadn’t heard before just like fire drills and bus safety and everything else. Body safety – we want this to be second nature.”

The discussion will start with a community meeting on Oct. 8 from 6 p.m. at Horace Mann Elementary. The meeting is geared toward adults throughout the community – parents, teachers, professionals etc. and child care will be provided.

Hall will go over the content he plans to discuss with each age group as well as give adults tools to protect their kids and answer any questions.

He will visit students at Horace Mann on Oct. 9 in the morning and Andrews in the afternoon as well as Lincoln on the morning of Oct. 10 and Flint Springs in the afternoon.

According to a press release from the YSB, this program is made possible by funding from ECOLAB Foundation and the collaboration between the Child Protection Team, Department of Child Services, Huntington County Community School Corporation, the YSB and other various partners including local law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office and the probation department.

For more information, contact Williams at YSB at 260-356-9681.