Predators beware: Morgan Co. radKIDS can put up a fight

Fifth-grade students from Teresa Courter’s class use their radKIDS’ skills to demonstrate how they could get away from an attacker during a radKIDS graduation held on Thursday at the school.

Fifth-grade students from Teresa Courter’s class use their radKIDS’ skills to demonstrate how they could get away from an attacker during a radKIDS graduation held on Thursday at the school. Photo by Dianne Steingrubey.

They may be small, but Morgan County radKIDS revealed just how tough they can be if put in a compromising situation.

Last week, approximately 150 Morgan County R-II Elementary students celebrated graduation of the radKIDS program. At their graduation, Lt. Mike Nienhuis, field operations supervisor of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, pretended to be a stranger and each student got to use their radKIDS skills to demonstrate how they could get away from him.

Nienhuis wore a padded “red man suit” tailored just for him. Nienhuis, who implemented the program in the school, literally took a beating all last week as graduation was held each day.

“I love graduation,” said Nienhuis. “You see the kids come out of their shell and stick up for themselves. Even though I am the one taking the abuse, it’s a great feeling to watch that.”

Leading up to graduation, students repeated the radKIDS rules at the beginning and end of class. Officer Nienhuis said all radKIDS must know these important rules to graduate. The radKIDS rules are: No one has the right to hurt me.; I don’t have the right to hurt anyone else unless they try to hurt me. Then I have the right to stop them.; It’s not my fault, so I can tell.

After demonstrations, students received a radKIDS certificate with their picture and thumb print on it.

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Since the beginning of February, the program was taught to children during PE class as part of core curriculum. Elementary PE teacher Laura Piercy taught students the program with occasional help from Nienhuis. The class was offered free to third- and fifth-grade students who were granted permission by their parents to participate. Before the program begins, Nienhuis said every parent is given a manual that outlines all information and topics presented to children in radKIDS to provide parents the opportunity for additional conversation outside the classroom environment.

As stated on its website, radKIDS is a not-for-profit educational organization that is committed to providing proven and effective lifesaving skills to children by teaching them how to “Resist Aggression Defensively.” Through radKIDS training, children become empowered and learn to replace the fear, confusion and panic or dangerous situations with confidence, personal safety skills and self-esteem.

The education program has trained 250,000 children; more than 3,500 community based instructors have been trained in more than 44 states and Canada; 74 children threatened with abduction used their skills and returned safely to their families; and hundreds of children spoke up and got the help they needed to stop the abuse, according to its website.

Nienhuis says it’s not just a self-defense class. Curriculum topics include: Home, School and Vehicle Safety, Out and About Safety, Bullying Prevention, Realistic Defense Against Abduction, Good-Bad-Uncomfortable Touch and more.

RadKIDS is a national organization that gives community-based groups training and support from headquarters to provide the program. These groups, which have safety goals compatible with those of radKIDS, include police departments, educational organizations, civic groups, fraternal organizations, faith based groups, citizens’ groups and concerned parents.

Lt. Nienhuis and Sheriff Jim Petty felt the need to implement the program in the community after listening to a seminar presented by Stephen M. Daley, Executive Director of radKIDS, at a National Sheriff’s Conference in 2007. After Morgan County R-II School District was on board with the program being taught in school and the police department raised the necessary funding, several teachers and police department personnel became certified to instruct the class.

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In 2010, radKIDS was offered at the elementary school for the first time. Since, Nienhuis has assisted with elementary classes and has always worn the “red man suit” at graduation.

“I am looking into getting certified as a R.A.D. women’s program instructor also. Then, I can teach it in high school to the eleventh and twelfth grade girls before they go off to college so they know they have the opportunity to defend themselves and they know how to do it. We’ve had a lot of contact with parents of girls that age asking if I can teach them that class,” Nienhuis said.

Contact Lt. Mike Nienhuis at 573-378-5481, ext. 295 for more information about starting a radKIDS class in your area or visit www.radkids.org.

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