BLOOMINGTON — In light of a reported child-abduction attempt Thursday in southwest Bloomington, community leaders have united to promote safety awareness for children.
Schools, neighborhood groups and police are getting the word out.
“Communication is a huge, huge part,” said Bloomington District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly. “We’re doing all we can to get the word out.”
While the incident was in Normal-based Unit 5, both Twin City school districts respond whenever there is a threat. They also inform local private, parochial and Illinois State University lab schools.
Parents in the Oakwood subdivision in southwest Bloomington, where in the latest incident occurred, are circulating an informational flier about it, said Hope Chubb, a member of the Pepper Ridge Elementary School parent teacher organization and a former resident of that neighborhood.
A Pepper Ridge Elementary School student told authorities a man tried to abduct him while waiting for a morning school bus at Woodhavens and Timber View drives.
The incident follows four others this winter involving reports of people trying to lure children into vehicles.
“It may be a good time to reinforce safety messages parents are already giving kids,” said Normal Assistant Police Chief Kirk Ijams.
He said role-playing may help. It gives a child an opportunity with a safe person to learn how to react in a proper way, he said.
Sometimes children, even those with a lot of common sense, might not be as prepared as a parents think, said Chubb, mother of boys in kindergarten and third and sixth grades. She said that when she and her sons practiced safety scenarios supplied by the Boy Scouts, they found some areas to work on.
When it comes to teaching safety, parents must be direct, seven with 6-year-olds, Chubb said.
“You can’t really tiptoe around it,” she said.
Tips for staying safe
Police offer the following tips that parents should share with children during a talk about avoiding abduction:
• Avoid walking alone, if possible
• Establish a safe route to and from school
• Avoid alleys and hidden walkways
• Move away from strangers who approach children
• Report suspicious adults to school officials or parents
• Do not accept rides with strangers
• Remember incidents don’t just happen near schools or on weekdays. They also can happen in parks or on Saturdays, for example.