Free program teaches kids how to escape from attackers
The children made their way through a fingerprinting station and deputies with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office rolled their tiny fingers over a pad of ink and onto a paper identification sheet as part of an effort to have more information available on each child in the case of an abduction. However, the main part of the night focused on teaching children self-defense mechanisms to prevent such an abduction or other attack from occurring.
Rochelle Johnson, of Luling, brought her school age children Al and Alex, along with toddler Allison, to the event for their first self-defense session.
“This is actually our first time, but we talk about it all of the time. Hopefully we’ll never need it. That’s the goal – we’ll never need it, but in the event that we do, God forbid, just to let them be aware of what is going on and the possibilities,” she said. “I think it will be a good experience for them.”
Once all of the children had made their way through the identification process, they sat on a gym mat in the middle of the hardwood floor as event organizer Corp. Christian Johnson and Deputy Jack Gilboy began lecturing them on how to avoid strangers, and in extreme cases, how to fight back against would be attackers.
“If you are ever at home alone and you see someone outside your house and they are scaring you or trying to get in the door, call us – call 911,” Gilboy said. “We won’t care if it turned out to be nothing, but we would rather you call us and it be nothing than for you to not call us and it be something. I promise we are not going to get mad at you if we come to your house and nothing is wrong.”
Then the handheld pads came out. Gilboy, along with Deputy Connie Patterson, stood at the end of the mat and the children organized into two lines. One by one they came at the officers, screaming loudly, punching at the pads and pushing the deputies back before peeling off and going to the end of the line. Next the pads were held low as the kids were instructed to kick at the shin areas of would be attackers.
Gilboy said the techniques they teach are more about buying time for children that will hopefully allow them to escape a bad situation.
“We just want to give them the confidence to know that they can get away from a stranger if they need to and get help or call for help,” he said.
This is what such events are all about, Johnson said.
“I’d do 50 of these classes per year if we could. If it helps one person, one kid, not get snatched off the street my entire career just got made. I can retire happy now,” Gilboy said. “We thoroughly love doing this. We do it just because we want these kids to be safe.”
The Sheriff’s Office holds two child self-defense sessions per year. They also hold two sessions for adults. However, beginning this fall deputies will double their efforts due to increased involvement from the community.
“There are 10,000 kids in the parish and I want them all to go through this every year,” Johnson said.
Along with teaching self defense to local children, Johnson said the identification packets, including fingerprints provided by the children, are extremely important as well.
“If your kid should show up missing you just hand us that (packet) and then you’ve got everything you need to go on as far as a description of the kid, any nickname, scars, any identifiable marks and any fingerprints. It works out great,” Johnson said.
Although this event was a parishwide offering and listed on the Community Education calendar, the Sheriff’s Office will respond to requests from St. Charles Parish citizens who would like to go through such training.
“As long as they have 10 people we can do it for women, teens or children. If they have a venue we’ll come to them, if they don’t have a venue they’ll host it somewhere else and take care of it there and that is open to any resident in the parish,” Johnson said.
Johnson is quick to point out that children are not the only at-risk population.
“This morning we did a safety seminar at Latter and Blum for all of the realtors. They often find themselves in a home by themselves with a man they don’t know. They need the tools to get away,” Johnson said. “We don’t teach them how to beat someone up, but we teach them to get to safety.”
Those interested in taking part in future self-defense classes, or setting up an event with assistance from the Sheriff’s Office, can do so by calling Corp. Christian Johnson at (504) 301-6030.
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