As a body safety educator in the state of West Virginia, my job is keeping kids safe.
From situations like sexual abuse, bullying, neglect, and more. So far this year, I’ve taught 1,800 K-8th graders how to stop the bad guys (or gals) in their lives.
The keeping kids safe process can be distilled down to three simple steps.
Curious as to what the three safety steps are? Here you go!
- Make a list
- Make a plan
- Practice your plan
Let’s spend a little time with each of these components. Because you, too, can be a pro at keeping kids safe.
Make a list
Telling a trusted adult is one of the most important components in the body safety script developed by various child safety professionals from Shield Task Force, WV law enforcement, and the nonprofit, Libera.
Our body safety educators encourage students to make a list of at least Five Trusted Adults. This list can include: a favorite teacher, a school counselor, an aunt or uncle, a sports coach, a music or dance instructor, a next door neighbor.
If a child encounters any situation that makes them say or feel, “Uh-oh!” they should tell one of their Five Trusted Adults.
To help kids develop their list of trustworthy grown-ups, ask questions like:
- Who is an adult you really trust? You feel very safe with them.
- Who is a grown-up who loves you and would help you, no matter what?
- Who has your best interest at heart? If you told them you had a BIG problem, they’d immediately drop everything to help you?
Those are the kinds of people kids should include on their Five Trusted Adults list.
Because grown-ups can sometimes forget, can sometimes be super busy, I advise the kids:
“If your first trusted adult doesn’t get you help quickly, move on to the next grown-up on your list.”
Make a plan
The second step in the process of keeping kids safe is to help them create a Personal Safety Plan.
My fellow body safety educator and West Virginia law enforcement officer, Sergeant Tony Craigo, says that people who create a Personal Safety Plan are twice as likely to make a good decision when trouble arises.
A Personal Safety Plan often looks like this:
If _____ happens, then I will _____.
You probably already have at least one Personal Safety Plan tucked inside your brain. Don’t believe me? Finish this sentence: If my clothes catch on fire, then I will … That’s right. Stop, drop, and roll. See? You do know one!
A Personal Safety Plan for a K-12 kid may look like:
- If someone is bullying me at school, then I will tell a teacher.
- If something in my home frightens me (ie. A person, drugs, pornography, weapons, etc.), then I will ask a policeman for help.
- If another student wants me to text them a picture of my “bathing suit body parts,” then I will tell my school’s counselor.
- If a stranger (or someone I know) texts me pictures of their “bathing suit body parts,” then I will block them on social media and tell my parents (or guardians).
If you are a parent, an educator, or any child’s trusted adult, help them make Personal Safety Plans for a variety of situations that may come up in their life.
Practice your plan
You can help a child be even safer by having them practice their Personal Safety Plan.
To equip a kid for an uncomfortable (or downright unsafe) situation, have them practice the “then” part of their safety plan. This can include shouting at a rude classmate or blocking a stranger who slides into their DMs on social media with a nude photo. Running away can be another good way to avoid difficult situations. Like when a stranger asks them to get in their car.
At my first body safety assembly this fall, I suggested the following safety plan to 300 middle school students.
“If someone I don’t know squeezes one of my body parts in a crowded hall at school, I will yell, ‘Stop it, Fart Face!’”
My boss wasn’t super enthusiastic about my wording choice, but the kids loved it and practiced the plan with great gusto.
“Here’s the thing,” I told the kids, “So often bad people get away with doing bad things because no one resists them. Your voice is your super power for resistance. Use it!”
To further drive home the importance of a Personal Safety Plan, I always give students several “If ___ happens” scenarios and ask them to provide the “then I will ___” part. The kids almost always respond by shouting, “Tell a trusted adult.”
When I hear those words, I know I’ve done my part in the work of keeping kids safe.
To learn more about WV body safety assemblies, click here.
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