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Police hope to give children self-defense training - Part 2

Police hope to give children self-defense training - Part 2



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Paul Nelson reportingWould training help a child stop an attacker? That's the aim of a program police are hoping to start in the apartments where a 7-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered.

The program is called radKIDS, and some Utah schools are already teaching the program. Those who have lived through a kidnapping say it will help.

When you were in your P.E. class in elementary school, you might have learned games like kickball, dodgeball or tetherball. Here in this P.E. class at Timpanogos Elementary School, students are learning front kicks and eye gouges.

I asked the students, "Do you guys think it'selfs fun?" They all said yes, but one girl reminded me, "It's not all fun and games."

Another student said, "I love it. It teaches you how to stay back from strangers just in case of an emergency."

Alyson Larsen, regional director of radKIDS, says, "That's one of the ways radKIDS differs from any other program in the nation: They get that physical training along with the instructional part. You're training their mind and body to work together."

Larsen teaches children how no one has the right to hurt them, even people they know. The group teaches children to scream when a stranger approaches them, and I do mean scream. They teach what to do when a stranger approaches in a car, and they even re-enact that scenario so the message sinks in.

Plus, Larson says they learn a lot more than just self-defense. "We get to talk about gun safety. We get to talk about drug safety [and] chemicals in the cupboard and how they're comparable to juices," she said.

Larsen says the popularity of the program took off like a rocket since the summer of 2002, a season she calls "The Summer of Missing Children." The most famous case that year was the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart. "There are predators out there. That doesn't mean you should be paranoid. I am," Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, said.

I asked Smart if he would call himself paranoid now. "I am. I would say I'm paranoid, yes. If my kids don't show up when they're supposed to, if they're not where I'm supposed to pick them up when they're supposed to be there, immediately I think I'm conditioned into this response," he said.

Smart says he was so impressed with the radKIDS program that he joined the group's national board of directors. He says talking with your children about safety isn't enough. "Unless you practice it, it won't be enough, because that's the only way that it truly becomes hardwired into your brain," he said.

Of course, no self-defense program is guaranteed to protect children from all dangers, and no one wants to speculate if this training would have saved Hser Nay Moo, but it could give a fighting chance to children in the future.

RadKIDS is planning to teach more instructors for the program in Utah sometime in June. For the latest information on radKIDS, click the related links.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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