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Tampa: Safety class is geared to kids

After the recent abduction and murder of a Sarasota teen, teaching children to stay safe becomes a high priority.

By EVE LEBERSON
Published February 13, 2004

Child safety. It's the everlasting concern of all parents.

Kids know the rules: always wear a bike helmet, look before crossing the street and don't talk to strangers. They're all lessons learned at an early age.

But older children are just as vulnerable as the young ones. And the recent abduction and murder of Sarasota sixth-grader Carlie Brucia has many families searching for ways to better arm their children against society's often invisible dangers.

"Parents, I think, are scared to think about this happening to their daughter," said Norrine Russell of the Ophelia Project-Tampa Bay. "We prepare kids for a lot of things. As people we don't want to think about bad things happening to our kids."

Education is available through organizations such as the Ophelia Project, a support group for teenage girls. It will offer self-protection and safety classes at seven area YMCAs this Saturday.

For two years the nonprofit organization has provided programs for teenage girls at county YMCAs and schools. Its goal is to assist young girls in making good life decisions.

Organizers scheduled Saturday's class to coincide with V-Day, an international movement aimed at stopping violence against women and girls.

The 90-minute Saturday class will cover tips on street safety and how to prevent a potential abduction situation. "We will re-enact the whole Sarasota incident and show people what (Carlie) could have done to get away," said Ophelia spokeswoman Nancy Dalence. The workshop is especially important for teens, she said, because they're just starting to venture out on their own.

"Teens are not reminded of this information," Dalence said. "We do it for little kids but forget teens need this information, too."

Instructors will also talk about public restroom and parking lot dangers, relationship safety tips and Internet safety in chat rooms. "Teens share a lot of information through the Internet," Dalence said. "They just shouldn't be talking to people they don't know."

Dalence said classes were initially offered only to girls 12 and up. But since Carlie's kidnapping, the program has received an overwhelming response from both boys and girls. It's now open to all children and their parents, though the program will be geared to teenage girls.

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 12:51:07]

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