In 1963, a Texas newspaper first used a term to describe a program designed to help keep kids secure in a world that turned out not be as safe as it had seemed.
In February of that year, the Austin Daily Herald, ran a brief article promoting a Policeman’s Ball, a charity function that would help fund efforts to support, among other events, the Stranger Danger warning project for elementary students.
It was the first known use of the phrase in the media.
Sadly, the danger is still present, perhaps more so than before.
The good news is a local business is working to arm youngsters with the skills and confidence that can help them protect themselves.
Dubbs Karate Academy’s Sensei (teacher) and co-owner Vince Fannon said children in our culture are taught not to be too rude, too loud, and certainly not physically aggressive.
Sometimes, those very factors help the bad guys.
On Saturday, Fannon and some of his staff hosted boys and girls aged 4 to 12 at a free Stranger Danger Child Self-Defense Workshop at the academy’s Gettysburg headquarters at 26 Springs Ave.
The stated purpose of the hour-long clinic was to help children “recognize a potentially dangerous situation and learn how to avoid, diffuse and defend themselves from bullies and predators,” according to a prepared statement.
The program is, literally, based on an “A.B.C.” guideline.
A: Awareness: If the child notices a person in a crowd, or near a playground, who does not seem quite right, the best thing to do is stay away from that person and tell a responsible adult.
B: Boundaries: Like a fence, in any culture we have physical boundaries of who gets to touch you or approach you, Fannon said. He instructed the children that if somebody loomed too near, they should plant their feet firmly, hold their hands out with the palms forward, and say “STOP!” in a loud, clear voice, and add “He/She is not my mother/father.”
C: Combat: A last resort, Fannon said, a child can combat an adult. He demonstrated some maneuvers that even a 4-year-old girl could use to temporarily disable and discourage an assailant.
At the end of showing the defense moves to the kids, Fannon ran a confidence-building exercise in which each student learned how to make the proper kind of “hammer fist,” and break a quarter inch-thick board.
The first one to try it was successful on his second try.
The remaining 16 popped their boards in two pieces on the first attempt. The looks on their young faces as they carried their shattered boards back to their seats was a study in self-confidence. That look, Fannon said, comes from doing something they did not think they could do.
Eli Elligson, 8, confessed that he was already a student at the academy, and he’d probably already broken three boards in his career. But then, he does already have a purple belt.
Even so, he said, “It feels pretty good.”
Ben Pelletier, brought his son, Noah, who is 4, into the event when it saw it advertised on social media.
Noah is home-schooled, which takes a lot of dad’s time; other times he is a project manager for cell tower construction projects.
He said he thought the Stranger Danger program sounded interesting, so they showed up.
He said Noah’s “exuberance” in the class pleased him.
At the end of the session, Fannon supplied pizza for everybody.