Tips on keeping your child safe
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 26, 2007
THE SELMA TIMES-JOURNAL
The apprehension of a pedophile who literally chased a 10-year-old girl from a bus stop has awakened this community to the dangers of those who would prey on children.
Schools in the area have heightened their alerts for suspicious people and vehicles, and are talking with the children about safety. The thought of how close the young girl came from being abducted has sparked school officials to offer to the public a reminder of community, and “watching out for our children.”
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“We are very thankful that the student is safe. I would also like to remind parents to talk with their children about safety measures while at the bus stop, and we will do the same thing in the schools.
We will also review our safety procedures for students,” said Dr. Fannie Majors McKenzie, superintendent of Dallas County Public Schools.
Joe Earl Edwards, 52, has been a registered sex offender since his March 1995 conviction for sexual abuse. Edwards was found guilty of victimizing his 10-year-old niece, according to court records.
Wednesday’s attempted abduction was relieved in part with his capture, but authorities warned there are more out there. There are currently 61 convicted sex offenders registered in Selma and Dallas County, as law following their release requires them to do. Several of those listed live here, but crimes were listed to have occurred elsewhere.
A sex offender is anyone convicted of rape, sexual assault and sex crimes against children. In Dallas County the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office has worked to identify sex offenders and keep their records updated by using law enforcement to check and make sure each person is living where they said they lived, and they’re in compliance.
Shannon Lynch, assistant district attorney, has taken on the challenge of keeping track of area sex offenders – especially those who have harmed children. She started several years ago and said there were 13 offenders registered at that time. Now there are more than 60.
“I know for a fact there’s a lot more of them out there,” Lynch said. “It takes a city-wide effort, people calling and reporting them, and time to track them down.”
The safety of children in city schools has been in the forefront of the start of the school year for Selma City Schools as well.
A 9-year-old boy was reportedly tempted to get inside a white pickup truck on Montague Street, according to police. A concerned citizen observed the incident and the boy ran and jumped into her vehicle. Police do not know if the two incidents are related. School officials reacted with alarm.
“Parents should walk the route to and from school with your children pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help,” said Lynn Henderson, a city schools spokesperson. “Make a map with your children showing acceptable routes to school, using main roads and avoiding shortcuts and isolated areas.”
Henderson said they have learned that children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might; therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp.
She said it is more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be “on the look out” for a particular type of person.
Tips for parents on how to talk to children about avoiding predators, and general safety:
Help your children learn how to get away, and keep a safe distance from an unfamiliar person who is trying to trick or force them to go with him or her.
Discuss what to do if the person has a weapon. Although inherent with risks, sometimes a child’s only chance of survival, when approached by a person with a weapon, is to run or forcibly resist capture.
Talk to your children about safe places to run if they are scared.
Ask your children to let you know about anything that seems suspicious.
Teach your children how to describe people and vehicles.
Tell your children to never go off alone with anyone who says you sent them, unless the person can give a “code word” that only you and your children know.
Tell your children to stay with a buddy or the group when waiting at the bus stop or playing in the park.
Require your children to let you know where they are at all times.
Teach your children to write down and report the license number of the person’s car when someone offers them a ride.
Observe children at bus stops and report any disturbances. Assist them if they need help.
Become familiar with persons and vehicles that drop off and pick up children from the bus stop.
Report any people hanging around or any cars passing by the children on a regular basis.
If your children miss the school bus, tell them not to accept a ride from anyone not pre-approved by you as a backup.
Help monitor the bus stop or arrange for other parents to monitor it.
Make sure your children never play in deserted areas such as the woods, parking lots, or alleys.
If your children must be home alone, tell them that they should never open the door for anyone and should keep all doors and windows locked.
Help your children plan the best route to take when walking to school – never take shortcuts.
Emphasize to your children they should NEVER, EVER hitchhike – NEVER!