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S.K.I.P. program enters 5th year

By Scott Mims

Thorsby School is gearing up for its S.K.I.P. program, which teaches elementary students about the danger of sexual predators and other threats.

S.K.I.P. — an acronym for Safeguarding Kids is Priority — is founded upon the researched-based literature series “Think First and Stay Safe,” distributed by Child Lures Prevention, a national sexual abuse, abduction, Internet crime, drugs and school violence prevention program.

The S.K.I.P. program was started in 2006 and is part of the school’s health curriculum for grades K-5.

“Throughout the years that I’ve been teaching, I was aware of children in my own classroom that had been physically and sexually abused,” said teacher Angie Barnett, founder of the S.K.I.P. program. “When you see the emotional and physical scars that are left behind, it just evokes a desire to try to prevent this from happening to any other child.”

A variety of subjects are covered, ranging from bullying to Internet safety. A strong emphasis is placed on sexual predators and the 16 lures they commonly use to gain children’s trust.

For example, kids are taught that other people are not allowed to touch them in a sexual manner.

“Kids sometimes think that’s normal in their family because they don’t know any better,” Barnett said. “We teach them that it’s against the law.”

The “Think First and Stay Safe” curriculum will be taught the week of May 10-14. On Thursday, May 13, local law enforcement agencies will host a Safety Day. They will do demonstrations for students, such as escape techniques.

As a precursor to S.K.I.P., Thorsby and Maplesville schools are partnering throughout the month of April to raise $2,000 to benefit Child Protect Children’s Advocacy Center. Handprints are being sold for $1 apiece. The program is called “Helping Hands to Heal a Heart.”

Barnett predicts the schools will surpass their goal.

“The kids have just had a very good response,” she said.