Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Valuable Lesson; Students Learn Child Safety Message

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Valuable Lesson; Students Learn Child Safety Message

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Times-Union staff writer

It began with a few tricks from St. Johns County Deputy Joey Romer, while police canine Bravo watched closely from the corner.

Making some illuminated balls appear and disappear before the eyes of students at San Juan del Rio Catholic School was a winner, and so was pulling an American flag out of a bag after three students stuffed red, white and blue scarves into it.

But when the tricks were over, it wasn't treats Romer had for the 100 kindergarten through third-grade students in the cafeteria on Florida 13 in Switzerland Thursday, the day before Halloween. The deputy's message was aimed at their Halloween trick or treating and beyond.

"Let's turn up our ears, because we have serious, serious stuff to talk about," he said. "Some of you may go up to stranger's homes. There might be stranger dogs in the neighborhood. Stranger dogs are just as bad as strangers, aren't they, because we don't know which dogs are good, and which are bad."

Kindergartener Ryan Vandenbord said he learned a lot from the half-hour presentation.

"It is not good if you meet a stranger. You just run and scream, "This is not my mommy,' " he said.

Stranger Danger Day was set up by kindergarten teacher Laurie McCahill to let students learn about the possible dangers of talking with strangers. She was able to get Romer and his police dog Bravo to spend time with the pre-kindergarten through third-grade students first.

"Hands-on education is much more effective than anything I can teach them out of the book, so it just seemed like a win-win situation. Just having him here made the lesson come alive," she said. "It was a very good lesson."

Romer dazzled the younger students with sleights of hand for the first few minutes. But the deputy was serious when he talked about strangers.

"Is a stranger a boy or a girl? It is anyone," he said. "Is a stranger pretty or ugly? It's both."

That can include anyone, so he warned the students to never answer the door if they don't recognize who is there. For example, what if a pizza delivery man shows up and the child knows no one ordered it? …

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