Abduction, bullying, child abuse and sexual assault. They are called four of the most pressing issues facing kids today. Area kids are learning the skills that can protect them against all of them. They're 'RAD students who are learning all about 'Resisting Aggression Defensively'.
Fourth grader Parker explained, "If someone grabs you fight, scream, yell. Anything you can to get someone's attention or to hurt him."
Behind him his peers are dressed in protective helmets, boxing gloves and knee pads. The attackers, Stephen F. Austin State University police are dressed in much heavier protective gear. That's because they get hit, pushed, kicked and screamed at by about 50 kids who have learned ways to get away.
Instructor Tina Layton reminds each child before participating in a round with the attacker."Nobody has the right to hurt you. If anyone comes up talking to you and you don't know them don't stand and talk to them. If they grab you do some of the defenses we showed you."
Poking the bad guy in the eye might work. RAD graduates call it 'peppering'. Fourth grader Ambria demonstrates how she places her fingers on each hand together and pokes at the eye of a friend. "See how she closes her eye.that's when you run away."
Then there were those who spent more time hitting, than running. SFA Officer Mark Jordan dripping with sweat said, "Some of the kids are hitting as hard as an adult would. I'm very proud of all of them."
But RAD success relies not on strength, but knowledge. It teaches strangers' tricks. The officers come up pretending that they lost their dog or a contact lense. It teaches staying close to mom and dad. Instructor Tambra Branton said, "Sight, sound and distance is what we teach them. They have to see their parents, they have to be able to hear their parents and be no more than 3 seconds away."
RAD gives kids the opportunity and choice of 'not' being a victim and if they are it's not their fault. Police Chief Marc Cossich explained, "We're not teaching them how to fight. We're teaching them how to get away and get for help and show them how to get the help, where the help is." Placing a practice 911 calls helps.
RAD won't guarantee the training will stop an abduction. That's impossible. What they can assure students will know what to do. Fifth grader Jeremy said with confidence, "If I was in real life I probably could, but I wouldn't stay and fight as much as I did today. I'd probably just run."