A growing number of Alachua County Schools are teaching children how to protect themselves with radKIDS, a national safety-based curriculum which gives children the opportunity and power to live safer in today’s world.
On a holiday break in March 2018, a young girl from an Alachua County school was playing at a theme park resort area – her parents only a few steps away. A man approached the girl and asked her to leave with him so he could “show her something special.” And with that, the little girl was faced with a decision which could alter the rest of her life.
A few months prior, her school had implemented the safety-based curriculum, radKIDS, which prepares students with skills and knowledge for how to protect themselves during crisis situations. As a result of the preparation, she recognized the trick immediately and escaped. She was able to give a full description of the man. She told her radKIDS instructor, “I knew exactly what you taught us to do, and I wasn’t scared at all.”
As parents, we talk to our children about what to do in dangerous situations, but we never know how they will respond if the chance comes. How can we best protect children from predators when they hide in plain sight? Tragically, the chances are high that they will be confronted with such a situation. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. This is not acceptable.
Over the past three years, there is a growing team of agencies, community supporters and parents who are working to bring a revolutionary solution to violence against children.
radKIDS is at the heart of that revolutionary solution – a safety-based curriculum that teaches, trains and empowers children to recognize, avoid, resist and, if necessary, escape violence or harm. Instructors have discussions, offer presentations and conduct drills preparing K – 6th grade-aged children to protect themselves from threatening situations. While many outside forces are working to keep our children safe – parents, teachers and law enforcement – radKIDS works from the inside out. During an emergency, the child is the only person guaranteed to be there, so why not give them permission and training? The radKIDS curriculum includes a wide range of topics, including abduction, sexual assault, bullying, internet safety, gun safety, fires, safe zones and trusted adults.
radKIDS teaches children age-appropriate lessons on personal boundaries, self-worth and physical skills, so they can protect themselves when they are alone, anchored on these basic principles:
No one has the right to hurt you.
You don’t have the right to hurt anyone else, including yourself
(but you can stop it).
It is not your fault (so you can tell).
Deputy Cary Gallop with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has spearheaded certifying School Resource Officers as radKIDS instructors.
“The physical side of radKIDS is actually the smallest part of the curriculum, but instinctual moves when attacked are still important,” Gallop said. “The skills taught to the children are stun and run so children know how to get away from an attacker. We teach the children the difference between what is an emergency and what is not an emergency.”
Also unique to this program is that children actually participate in three simulated scenarios in order to build the application of the skills they have learned.
“After almost 30 years in law enforcement, I am tired of responding too late to the crime. With radKIDS, we invest in the most rudimentary level of crime prevention by empowering our children to keep themselves safe and stop the perpetrator if necessary,” Gallop said. “Our children are our future. It’s time to invest in our future.”
You may have come across a bully at school or had a child come home in tears, and you didn’t know what to do. Maybe you never knew what a child was facing because they didn’t tell you until it was too late. Social media has increased both the landscape that bullies can reach across as well as the impact of the abuse. One child under the age of 13 dies every five days from suicide – a horrifying number. radKIDS does much more than just teach children how to stop someone from hurting them. It teaches resilience. It alters the shame-based mentality victims are left with after traumatic events. Victims of abuse in all of its forms are taught personal boundaries and self-worth; they are taught that it isn’t their fault someone hurt them and, critically, how they can stop it from continuing.
Texas, Utah and South Carolina school districts have adopted and implemented radKIDS into their curriculums, moving away from the failures created by unenforceable zero-tolerance policies and instead replacing them with a zero-victimization school culture where NO ONE is allowed to be hurt at school. Schools include the radKIDS principles on the walls, during class times and throughout behavior modifications.
Empowering the students with permission to protect themselves in the context of self-defense, as supported by our laws in every state, and educating the adult faculty to support their students with a safer environment creates a district change.
Flourish Children’s Foundation, a local organization established to spread awareness and expand radKIDS into Alachua County, has partnered with agencies, sponsors and community members to bring scholarships for P.E. coaches, teachers, behavior research teachers and others as radKIDS instructors. The foundation may never meet the majority of children who will benefit from these skills, but because of the instructor team, radKIDS is growing in Alachua County – it is far-reaching and will impact generations. Despite the challenges with bringing it to children who need it, it is imperative to keep moving forward with this interagency and community partnership to teach children empowerment skills and personal boundaries. There are a lot of young people waiting for this information.
“If radKIDS is not in your school, ask your principal for it to be put into the curriculum,” said Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell. “Every child in every school should be taught these skills. The trajectory of a generation in a community will change. You break the cycle of abuse. When you tell a child the radKIDS principles, you empower them for the rest of their lives.”
To learn more, get involved or bring this to your school, visit FlourishChildrensFoundation.org for local information, radKIDS.org for national information and Gainesville Friends of radKIDS on Facebook.
The curriculum is 8 – 10 hours
Student/Teacher ratio 10:1
Best taught during P.E. class as it meets the national guidelines for physical education.
Classes structured by age: one for ages 5-7, another for ages 8-12