A rad approach to safety

By Paul Bistoff/ Staff Writer

MAYNARD - Steve Caloggero teaches science at Maynard High School, but he also teaches younger children an even more important lesson - how to remain safe. 

Caloggero is an independent radKIDS certified instructor. He teaches first- to third-graders what radKIDS refers to as "personal empowerment safety education."

"It's a very comprehensive safety course, with a concentration in stranger education and personal protection," said Caloggero. "The really unique thing in this course, that other courses don't have, is that there is an element of physical resistance."

Executive director and founder of radKIDS, Stephen Daley, said there are about 2100 certified instructors across the country, including about 200 in Massachusetts. Daley said that more that 100,000 children have attended the program nationwide.

Daley said most of the instructors are police officers, but he hopes to reach more teachers who can help integrate the program into school curriculums, or teach the program after school. In Provo, Utah, Daley said, the program has been accepted as part of the regular elementary school curriculum and therefore reaches about 3,000 children each year.

"The big difference in radKIDS is that we actually teach the children what to do, versus telling them what to do," said Daley.

Caloggero said that radKIDS students learn through hands-on training and drills. They pick up a phone and make mock 911 calls. They practice how to slip out of a backpack, while it's being grabbed by a "stranger," and run away. They learn to judge the distance they can safely be away from their parents so they can get back before a potential molester grabs them.

"They actually, physically go through the drill of trying to get to their parent before someone else gets to them," said Caloggero.

But Caloggero said radKIDS is not a self-defense course, rather it teachers children how to avoid putting themselves in danger, and how to escape if they are in it.

"The kids are taught some techniques to resist, to get away," said Caloggero. Daley said the program teaches "life-skills."

"It's not about fighting. It's about understanding no one has the right to hurt you, and how to escape if someone tries," said Daley. "We're not teaching how to fight, we're only teaching how to resist and escape violence."

Daley said a child who completes radKIDS does not think "help me, help me," when put in a compromising situation, rather they think "how dare you touch me?"

"We're making it harder for the bad guy," said Daley.

radKIDS parent Anne Manning said her daughter has taken the course twice, and will take it again next summer. Manning said the class covered a diverse range of safety techniques including the stop, drop and roll method of putting out a fire, how to interact with animals and how to safely board a school bus.
Manning said the drills really helped her daughter learn.

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