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Rock Crusher students to learn escape tactics

By EDDY RAMIREZ
Published March 1, 2007


CRYSTAL RIVER - Rock Crusher Elementary School has agreed to pilot a program that teaches third-graders simple tactics to free themselves from someone who may be trying to harm them.

School and law enforcement officials call the tactics "evasive moves."

"It's not teaching kids how to bite, and it's not teaching them karate or self-defense," said sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Purinton. "It's just basically a distraction move that they can do to possibly get away from their attacker."

The Sheriff's Office already offers a 10-week course that teaches all third-graders how to recognize and avoid common lures used by predators.

The new training will teach them how to react if they've already fallen into a trap and someone grabs them.

"Do they panic and be silent?" Purinton asked when he presented the program to the School Board on Tuesday. "Or is there something they can do to try and get away?"

If the program is successful, officials said they will consider bringing it to the other elementary schools. Older students may also be able take the classes.

But several concerns must be addressed before that can happen.

Officials don't know how long it will take before students can commit the moves to memory. They also fear that students might use the moves against one another, stirring up trouble in lunchrooms and on the playground.

Another worry is that students come away from the training with a false sense of confidence, that they can go "toe-to-toe" with an adult aggressor.

Board member Ginger Bryant wondered whether students would be able to discern between a person with good intentions and someone who might try to hurt them.

Purinton, who will oversee the pilot program, acknowledged that some students might have trouble making a distinction.

"We still want kids to be respectful," he said. "But it's hard to teach a child discretion."

Despite those concerns, the idea has been well received at Rock Crusher Elementary. Principal Nancy Simon said the school's enhancement council, which is made up of parents and teachers, voted unanimously last week in favor of the program.

No date has been set yet, but Simon said third-graders will start learning the evasive moves during regular physical education classes later in the spring.

Purinton has tapped a man who used to work at adolescent boot camps to teach the children.

In other news:

The School Board has given new screening procedures at schools a thumbs-up.

District staff and school administrators said there have been few complaints about the new guidelines requiring school visitors to present photo identification and clear a national check of sex offender registries.

Citrus High School, for example, has screened 991 visitors since early February when schools adopted the stricter security measures.

"That's a lot of people coming in that we have been screening and have been able to keep track of," said principal Leigh Ann Bradshaw. She added that parents, especially, have been appreciative of the tighter security.

Board members agreed not to screen visitors outside regular school hours. They stressed that it is the responsibility of parents to look after their children during those times. "The school just doesn't have the capability," said Mary Curry, assistant superintendent of schools.

The board also denied a request by a Citrus Hills woman to alert all families in the school system anytime a parent sex offender enters a school.

Edna Mattos, 59, who is a grandmother, said she was alarmed when she read that Citrus County has 200 registered sex offenders and that Citrus schools allow some parents who are sex offenders to attend school events.

"It's one thing to know that they exist," Mattos said. "It's another to know that they may be sitting next to your child at a school function."

School officials said they would make decisions on a case-by-case basis. They encouraged parents to remain vigilant and check the Sheriff's Office online registry of sexual predators and offenders.

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 860-7305.