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November 19, 2012

Southeastern schools schedule ‘Body Safety’ program

Purpose is to empower children, school officials say

GALVESTON — Southeastern School Corporation elementary students will be the last in Cass County to attend a “Body Safety” program when it’s presented Nov. 27.

The program, presented by Sgt. Terry Hall, a veteran of the Indianapolis Police Department and former director of a child abuse prevention program, will be presented to fourth- through sixth-grade classes at Galveston Elementary School in the afternoon and to third-graders at Thompson Elementary School in the morning.

Bringing “Body Safety” to Southeastern schools is meant “to empower children to know about inappropriate sexual touch,” said Galveston school social worker Maria Funk.

Hall visited Logansport elementary schools with the program last year, and he took it to Pioneer Elementary School in Royal Center in September.

Each time it’s been presented, the program has drawn several reports from children about possibly inappropriate behavior.

In September of 2011, 91 children at Landis Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools reported after the program that they or someone they knew may have been touched inappropriately, leading to 25 investigations. Then last December, 105 more students at Franklin and Fairview elementaries said the same thing, leading to 18 investigations.

Thompson principal Dennis Ide wasn’t sure how many reports to expect after this month’s program, but “that’s why we do it,” he said.

Instead of being “naïve enough to say nothing like that could actually go on here,” he said, local school personnel take steps to make sure students understand what’s not appropriate and how to tell somebody if something inappropriate takes place.

While most people, whatever their age, aren’t completely comfortable talking about the subject, Funk said it’s especially challenging for children.

“According to what Officer Hall is saying, it can be kind of a difficult thing to convey to somebody because they’re not even sure what it is,” said Funk. “They know it doesn’t feel right but they’re not sure why.”

She and Ide added that they’ve seen Sgt. Hall’s program in the past and described it as “tactful” and age-appropriate.

“From what I saw he doesn’t go into a lot of real heavy-duty detail,” said Funk. “He lets them know what things are and he calls things by their appropriate names. It’s done very well, very tastefully.”

A meeting for parents will take place the evening before “Body Safety” is presented. Parents may ask questions, express concerns and generally get information to determine whether their children participate in the program.

“I think that deflects a lot of the concerns a parent might have,” Ide said of the meeting. “I believe what they’ll do is go into very concise detail of what exactly is going to go on.”

The parent meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in the Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School auditorium, 6422 E. Ind. 218 in Walton.

Social workers at Thompson and Galveston elementaries may be reached at the respective schools for more information. Pam Watterson, Thompson social worker, may be reached at 574-626-2504, and Maria Funk, Galveston social worker, is available at 574-699-6687.

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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