KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
February 2, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
Last month, Katy ISD notified parents, staff, and the community of two “Stranger Danger” incidents in which an unknown individual approached Katy students. So far, the investigations haven’t resulted in charges, but the District and community groups work to educate students to be safe.
While Katy ISD doesn’t have a specific Stranger Danger curriculum program, the Katy ISD Police Department strives to educate students on such awareness whenever they can.
Katy ISD Police Talk ‘Stranger Danger’ at Schools
“We don’t have any ongoing stranger danger curriculum,” says Captain Ivan Nelson with the Katy ISD Police Department. “We do get requests from schools, mainly elementary schools, and we give presentations that address the subject.”
According to Captain Nelson, during a typical year, the police department is invited to give such presentations to about 15-16 Katy schools. Since COVID, however, those presentations have been put on hold.
Kindergarten to second graders learn about community helpers as part of their District curriculum. Katy ISD Police Officers visit the elementary schools to discuss the role of police officers as part of that unit.
“We talk about our role as officers and discuss stranger danger awareness as part of that,” says Captain Nelson. “We stress that officers are here to help and are our friend.”
“I always stress the 3 Rs: Recognize, Resist, and Report,” says Captain Nelson. “These steps apply to all ages, but we get down to the student’s level and use age appropriate terminology as needed.”
While the school district can supplement a student’s education about stranger danger, Captain Nelson stresses that parents must talk to their kids about this subject too.
“Parents should talk to their children as young as two and three years of age about strangers,” says Captain Nelson. “Look out for that ‘uh oh’ feeling and feeling when something doesn’t seem right. Teach them to speak out and report a problem.”
Two Stranger Danger Alerts Sent Out Last Month
Last month, the District sent out alerts for two Stranger Danger incidents.
“We can send out a notification to staff, parents, and community helpers (to the campus involved) within 15 minutes of getting word of a stranger danger situation,” says Maria Corrales DiPetta, Manager Media Relations, Multimedia Katy ISD Communications.
Two incidents in one month in unusual.
“It varies in a school year,” says Captain Nelson. “I’ve been here 20 years and we see maybe three incidents per year.”
On January 19 at about 3:35 p.m., an unknown man approached a Bear Creek Elementary school fifth grader and gave her a white pill saying that it was for energy. The girl ran home after the incident. After an investigation, the pill was determined to be Claritin. The encounter happened at the 4700 block of Hickory Downs Drive in the Bear Creek neighborhood near the school.
The second incident occurred less than a week later on January 25, in the 29800 block of Kingsland Boulevard near the Willow Creek Farms pool. A white Ford van was observed slowly following two young girls who were riding their bicycles eastbound towards Bryant Elementary.
“Our agency is assisting on those cases and we currently have no updates,” says Captain Nelson.
Student Walker/Biker Safety Tips:
Be aware of your surroundings
Use a buddy system
Avoid distractions such as cell phones and ear buds.
“Parents are really our helpers here,” says DiPetta. “They go outside of their homes and look for anything wrong or that matches the description in the notification. It feels good to see the community working together.”
Katy Graduate-Turned-Instructor Learned Confidence, Safety From TKD
Extracurricular activities and community programs also foster avenues where students can learn about stranger awareness.
2020 Mayde Creek graduate Joshua Dubrow started Tae Kwon Do with Tiger Rock Martial Arts of Katy as a Tiger Cub, in their 4-5-year-olds class. He’s grown up through the program, gaining confidence and awareness, and is now a certified full-time staff instructor, the membership coordinator and a 4th degree black belt.
“I can’t say that I’ve been in a dangerous situation, but I can think of situations when I got older and had more leeway and I knew when not to put myself in a dangerous situation,” says Joshua Dubrow.
“Tae Kwon Do taught me the mindset of what’s right and what’s not,” says Dubrow, who teaches stranger danger curriculum to the youngest students at the academy.
The pandemic has brought so many changes to so many student programs. For the Tiger Cub class, it means sometimes inviting parents on the mat to work with their children on self-defense as the instructors must teach while social distancing.
“Think about what we teach, we teach for a reason,” says Dubrow. “When you’re in the moment you have to think on your feet. Think if you need to step in and ask for help, call authorities, or get out of there.”
Boy Scouts Offers Training for Parent Volunteers, Scouts, and Non-Scouts
Boy Scouts of America (BSOA) offers age-appropriate training courses.
“To even be a parent volunteer, you are required to take the course,” says Tabitha Floyd, whose son is in troupe 343. “We also have the kids take it every year.”
“Boy Scouts of America does an incredible job with their Youth Protection training,” says Pack 343 Volunteer Committee Chair, Anna Skalka. “It’s based on previous experiences from children who didn’t know how to respond.”
The BSOA program is available to anyone at their website. According to Skalka, many church groups have adapted their program to suit their own training needs.
Do you know of another group in Katy that is doing a great job educating students on stranger awareness? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or your child feel unsafe at school, or experience a stranger danger incident, call the Katy ISD Police Department at 281-237-4000.