Friday, November 16, 2012

Meet Constable Matt!

Parents coming and going from school grounds will often see Victoria Police Constable Matt McNichol's face in the crowd. As our School Liaison Officer, Constable Matt plays an important roll in our school community, teaching in-class sessions for students on bullying (the WITS program), Halloween safety, bike rodeos, police work, making healthy friend choices, peer pressure, personal safety, and internet safety.

Constable Matt was kind enough to answer some questions for parents about his time spent at our school:

What is your role at Vic West Elementary School?
School Liaison Officers are responsible for police services directed toward youth and schools within the City of Victoria and Township of Esquimalt. The role is to provide a positive role model, and assist with any education training (WITS anti-bullying talks, safety talks, bike rodeos, etc.), and be a resource for the school.

What do you want parents to know about school safety?
Here are 5 things for parents to do: set the example, be informed, support the school, make the rules, and get involved.

What is your favourite thing about Vic West Elementary School?
Amazing kids, exceptional staff, an excellent school!

Thanks, Constable Matt! 

Below is further helpful information from Victoria Police about talking to our kids about safety.

Personal Safety Tips to Teach Your Kids

- The single most important thing to remember when teaching your kids about personal safety is to instill confidence, rather than fear.

- One way to give kids confidence is to talk to them about personal safety so that they know what to do if they ever encounter such a situation where they feel uneasy and/or threatened.

- A stranger or even a person known to the child who has the intention of harming them will most often try to engage in dialogue that is intended gain rapport with the child. Remind your child that when they start to feel uneasy about a situation or a person, it is their natural instinct kicking in telling them to be cautious or suspicious. This is also referred to as our gut feeling, inner sixth sense, or intuition.

- Techniques used to break down a child’s intuition are called “lures”. Some “lures” are:

  • a plea to a child’s sense of pleasing or helping (eg. asking for directions, asking for assistance finding a lost puppy, needing help carrying items from a car).
  • offering something tempting (eg. candy, money, job opportunity such as modeling).
  • a stranger may say they know their parents and provide names to convince kids they are safe.
  • a stranger may impersonate a person in authority such as a police officer to gain their trust.

- Teaching our kids what to do can be done through Q & A. Ask them situational type questions such as:

  • “What would you do if a car pulled up beside you and asked you if you would like a ride?” Answer: “No thanks” Action: Go tell a parent or trusted adult.
  • “What would you do if someone came up to you while you were outside playing and asked you to help look for a lost puppy?”. Answer: “I will go get my parents and they can help you”. Action step: Go tell a parent or trusted adult.
  • “What if someone came to you at the school ground and told you that your parents asked them to pick you up?”. Answer: “Say No thanks”. Discuss that you would never make those arrangements without going through the school first. Action step: Go tell a teacher.

- Discuss appropriate responses. Praise your kids for correct answers. Teach kids to not to engage further and walk or run if away if necessary to tell an adult. Go to a safe place or approach someone for help.

- Make observations of: vehicles, drivers and license plates. Report suspicious vehicles or persons to an adult immediately. Call Police if necessary.

- Children should know that it is ok to say “NO” to a stranger or even an adult known to them if they are in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.

***REMEMBER ….trust your gut feeling/intuition/sixth sense. This is a gift we all have to protect us.***

- NEVER get in a vehicle with someone you don’t know or trust. Keep your distance from a vehicle if someone is trying to persuade you to get closer and you feel uncomfortable.

- Teach your kids to walk with confidence and to always be aware of their surroundings. Walking and listening to music with ear buds is not recommended (leaving one ear bud out is a better option).

- It is best to use a walking route that is well travelled rather than a quiet and remote one. Walk to and from school with parents and/or friends. The route should have “safe places” identified in case a child needs to seek help. These could be neighbor’s house or a business where a clerk could offer assistance.

Talking to our children, encouraging them to trust their instincts and practicing the safety rules will instill confidence in children and help keep them safe.