PSL program trains children to be r.a.d.

By HILLARY COPSEY
hillary.copsey@scripps.com
June 21, 2007

Q-21FRADNC-838_o.jpgPORT ST. LUCIE — The grinning children scatter across the blue exercise mats, laughing and bouncing off each other until each is in his or her own square and facing the police officer in charge.

At the officer's cue — "Ready!" — the kids jump into a defensive stance, little legs braced apart and small hands open in front of their face.

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"Stand back! You're not my dad!" the children bellow.
After a week's worth of training, they are r.a.d.KIDS now.

Port St. Lucie police officers have trained more than 1,100 children in the past three years using a nationwide self-defense and safety program called r.a.d.KIDS. This summer, the officers are offering several week-long classes to teach even more children to "resist aggression defensively" and take responsibility for their own safety.

"It's designed to put information and abilities in the child's hands," said Officer Rich Wilson, who oversees the program at the Police Athletic League building on Tiffany Avenue. "Their safety, more often than not, comes into jeopardy when people in charge of their safety, parents or other adults, aren't around. The kids need to know what to do."

The 10-hour r.a.d.KIDS program covers everything from how to stay safe in a crowd — never stray more than three giant steps from mom or dad — to kicking and punching moves to fend off a would-be attacker. The kids learn the difference between good touches and bad touches and to stay away from strange adults who ask for their help, a common abduction ploy.

"The nature of the material can be a little scary if you overdo it with them," Wilson said. "(But) children are thinking about their safety. They do get these thoughts and fears for their safety."

Knowing how to defend themselves can give kids confidence and help them overcome the fears they develop from seeing abductions or other violent acts in the media or everyday life, said Wanda Collins, principal of Village Green Elementary. School Resource Officer Cherie Lucas has taught the r.a.d.KIDS program at Village Green and Morningside elementary schools for two years.

And the kids seem to have a good time becoming a r.a.d.KID. Giggles echoed off the walls during training sessions earlier this month, and parents said their children came home practicing the self-defense moves and talking about the safety tips.

Seeing their children happy and knowing they are learning skills that could protect them sets parents' minds at ease.

"It's just wonderful," said Sylvia Hughes, whose 8-year-old twins, Brandie and Rachel, and 5-year-old Michael became r.a.d.KIDS. "Some of these things, I just never would have thought about."

R.A.D.KIDS

What: The "rad" in r.a.d.KIDS stands for "resisting aggression defensively." It is a nationwide safety program for 5- to 12-year-old children that stresses self-defense to prevent abduction.

Locally: Port St. Lucie police officers teach the program locally through classes and at Morningside and Village Green elementary schools. The Vero Beach Police Department and Martin County Sheriff's Office also have certified instructors.

What kids learn: The program teaches safety tips for everyday situations, including school, bus, bike, pool and playground; self-defense tactics, including how to fight off an attacker; the difference between good touches and bad touches.

For information: www.radkids.org

BECOMING A R.A.D.KID

• Port St. Lucie police officers will teach three more weeklong sessions this summer. Each session is broken into five two-hour classes.

• It costs $20 for each child or $20 for one sibling and $10 for each additional sibling. Children receive a T-shirt, wristband and certificate.

• For information or to enroll, call the Police Department Community Programs Division at (772) 871-7684.

R.A.D.KIDS RULES

• Nobody has the right to hurt them.

• They don't have the right to hurt anyone else, unless it's for self-protection.

• If somebody does hurt them, it's not their fault. And because it's not their fault, they can tell somebody they love and trust.


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