Kids learn to fight back with their voices

2012-10-23T18:05:00Z 2012-10-24T09:12:05Z Kids learn to fight back with their voicesBy ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

The students at Bitterroot Elementary took their lessons to heart.

"If someone ever stole me, I'd yell, 'Stop!'," said second-grader Kassidee Savaria. Then, she added, "I'd scream in their ear."

Indeed, when Dave Allen of Martial Arts Academy of Billings told students their greatest weapon was their voice, the students spent much of the next 30 minutes yelling as loud and long as they could.

Elementary school students, it seems, don't need much encouragement to really raise their voice.

Allen was at the school with Ed Thompson, also of the Martial Arts Academy, to show the students how best to defend themselves if they're ever approached by a stranger.

The assembly was put together by Debra Neese, the school's counselor, after news broke two weeks ago that an 11-year-old girl had been abducted and assaulted before being released near Cody, Wyo.

Jesse Speer, 39, of Manhattan, was arrested last week in connection with the abduction.

"Parents and teachers need to work together to make sure our kids know what to do to stay safe," she said.

Part of that was teaching the kids to use their voice.  Allen explained that the best defense against those who would do harm is attention. These people depend on not being noticed, Allen told the kids. If the kids can make a lot of noise and a big commotion, in most cases the bad guys will be scared off, he said.

To that end, he had the students stand up and practice holding their hands up and repeatedly yelling stop as loud as they could. Once they've done that, he told them they should run and find a teacher or parent or other adult they trust.

"You're very powerful as a youngster," he told the group. 

He explained the importance of using code words. Parents and children should pick out a secret word that other adults could use to prove they'd been sent by mom or dad to pick up the child.

Most importantly, the age-old advice stands. Don't talk to strangers and don't go places alone.

"Travel in pairs," Allen said. "Travel in groups."

Marshall Wilson, a second-grader, thought all of Allen's advice made a lot of sense.

"I learned you can have a password," he said. "You can scream."

And that's an important message, Neese said. All too often, children don't think they can question adults or raise their voices at them.

But when it comes to being approached by a stranger, that's exactly what they need to do. She hopes that's the message they take away from Tuesday's assembly.

"Kids need to understand the power of their voice," she said.


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