Safety comes with confidence
By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
Friday, January 6, 2006 10:48 PM EST
NILES - Two groups of Niles students recently spent their winter break kicking and punching their way through a self-defense and safety awareness class.
RAD Kid Kaitlyn Dawson uses her elbow to whack State Trooper Rob Herbstreith during Friday's lessons at the Niles Law Enforcement Complex.
The program called RAD Kids, which stands for Resisting Aggression Defensively, was conducted at the Niles Law Enforcement Complex over five days and ended on Friday with a small graduation and slide show. Niles police officer Kevin Kosten and State Police trooper Rob Herbstreith combined forces to teach two sessions each day. Younger children ages five to seven attended the morning sessions and the afternoon courses were reserved for ages eight to 12. Each group contained around 10 students.
The program was paid for by the Kiwanis Club of Niles, which was able to provide the money through various fundraisers including golf outings, basketball tournaments and a holiday basket sale.
President of the club, John Grinnell, said the club is only in its third year and is sponsoring the RAD Kids program for the first time.
Raising the children's confidence and self esteem was a major goal of the week, said Kosten. Students were educated on gun, electrical and bike safety as well as how to identify and handle good, bad and uncomfortable touches from adults. The children also practiced dialing 911.
A highlight for the students was learning and acting out defense mechanisms that can be applied when they are approached or grabbed by a stranger. Some of the moves employed by the children included a head butt, sweep kick and hammer hand. A favorite among the eight to 12 year old group was the knee strike.
“It's just a lot of fun to do,” said Eulaisha Ellis.
To practice the moves, Herbstreith was mounted with a lobster red colored outfit that padded his entire body. With the suit on, the students could be encouraged to use as much force as necessary in order to escape the trooper's grasp. Herbstreith would sneak up on a student, who also wore a helmet and knee and elbow pads, and wrap them up. A rash of elbows to the face and shouts of “NO” followed as the student tried to break free and rush to a “safe zone.”
Violence was not the only method of resistance taught during the course. The officers emphasized alternative methods for handling situations that did not necessarily require physical force such as being teased in school.
Kosten and Herbstreith also touched on other tips for child safety. They encouraged parents to give other adults who may be picking up their children to use passwords that only the kids would know and that would be a signal for a safe situation.
“We asked the kids to go home and talk to their adult,” Herbstreith said. “We say adult instead of parent because it could be an aunt, uncle, grandparent or whatever.”
Kosten said a main point to drive home was making sure children know that they can talk to adults if they do not feel comfortable about a certain person or situation. “They need to know that it's OK to tell,” Kosten said.
The two officers officially work for different departments but share an office. They are also equally enthusiastic about their jobs and the RAD Kids program.
“It's a big partnership between the two of us. I refer to him as my partner even though we're through different departments,” Herbstreith said.
“That is the whole point of this facility (Law Enforcement Complex). Working together and sharing information.”
Kosten and Herbstreith, who were the first in the state to be trained in conducting the courses, said they plan on continuing the program with a RAD Kids summer camp.
They hope to make it into a two-week event with two classes per day.
Anyone wanting more information about RAD Kids can contact Kosten or Herbstreith directly at (269) 683-1313 or (269) 683-4411, or by visiting radkids.org.
Nationwide, RAD Kids program has already documented 23 saves, when a child wasn't harmed, who could have been killed or injured.