'radKIDS' to the rescue
By: Kevin O'Connor, Times staff writer
PAWTUCKET - Of all the frustrations that come with being a cop, the worst was dealing with kids who were hurt, Stephen Daley said.
"As a police oficer, you usually show up after a crime is committed," Daley said. "But as a person, you want to protect kids from harm. You want to keep it from happening."
From that thought, over countless hours on patrol and after hundreds of reports recording harm done to children, radKIDS was born.
Daley, the executive director of radKIDS, was in Pawtucket this week, teaching two dozen police officers from around the state how to lead programs for kids age 5 to 12, showing them how to live a safer life.
The program tries to take away an advantage that predators often exploit: Most children are well behaved.
"The problem is that, when something happens, most kids freeze," Daley said. "We teach them how not to freeze.
"We teach them how to make decisions. We empower them with that knowledge and then we teach them how to poke people and kick them."
RadKIDS, Daley said, is primarily an empowerment program.
"This is not based on a self-defense model," Daley said. "This is more an awareness model to teach kids to be more confident. Rad kids learn that no one has the right to hurt them. No one."
Daley has been teaching radKIDS in the classroom and to other instructors since 2000. There are now 2,100 radKIDS instructors and 100,000 children who have been trained. Daley said the program is credited with saving 27 children from abduction.
Those are children who rescued themselves from a kidnapping, Daley said. Those 27 kids stomped on feet, punched noses and yelled and screamed -- just as they had been taught -- when a stranger tried to grab them and pull them into a building or car.
Children are also taught to avoid enticements -- like strangers offering candy -- and how to protect themselves when they are on the Internet, Daley said.
RadKIDS offers curricula for each grade level. The program is intended to be taught once a year, for a total of 10 classroom hours.
At every age, the first class teaches the basics of radKIDS:
- One: No one has the right to you.
- Two: You don't have the right to hurt anyone until they are trying to hurt you.
- Three: When someone hurts you, it is not your fault.
"The best way to protect our children is to teach them to protect themselves," Daley said. "I had one boy tell me, 'I need to know this. I'm with myself 24 hours a day.' We want to share this program with as many people as we can to get this program to the kids."
Police Sgt. Edmund St. Pierre said the department is working with the schools and with organizations that serve children to schedule time for the program.
"The biggest surprise, since I started doing this, is the ability of the children to understand it," Daley said. "Kids are capable of making the right choices."
It is great that Pawtucket kids will get that chance, Daley added.
"We want to make it as difficult as possible for predators to get to children," Daley said. "We can't give a guarantee it won't happen, but we want to make it as difficult as we can."