Pass/Fail

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Questions are posed by students that never fail to amaze me: Is this on the test? Why do I have to learn this? (As a counterpoint I found the following bit of information incredible: At 88, on his deathbed Michelangelo’s supposed last words were, “ancora imparando”- “I’m still learning”). Can you tell me when I’m gonna use this in real life? How can you expect us to know this stuff? Do these sound familiar to you in your role as parent, guardian and educator? Children are nothing save pragmatic. Every kernel of Science, English, Social Studies, Math, and so forth must have a practical purpose. Students focus during review classes; they attend extra help sessions. Inevitably one or two will say upon receiving their grades, I studied the wrong stuff.

Parents like numerical grades. Numbers give them that grit, that meat, that concrete evaluation of performance. So do letter grades. However proud my dad was of my report card, he would always add a caveat: There’s room for improvement. And so, the next day would begin the quest to repeat or improve my scholastic skills.

Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten, suggested these basic ideas among others are the underpinnings of what enables us to grow, thrive and survive.

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned–the biggest word of all–LOOK. (And there are no exams!)

These beliefs are simple, commonsensical, in and of themselves harmless, written in a feel good way that captured people’s psyches. It vaulted to the top of the New York Times best seller list in 1989. That was almost 30 years ago. The world appeared simpler and safer.

Real life, as students like to call it, will provide situations for them that leave no room for improvement. It is one thing to study for a quiz, a unit exam, a practical, or a final and receive a numerical or letter grade. It is a totally different evaluation when a stranger attempts to enter a child’s personal space; there is only one chance without possibility of a retest: it is Pass or Fail. This test can be taken at any time in anyone’s lifetime. Just scan the news for the past months and read the ages of those encountering sexual predators: preteens, teenagers, and college-aged students!

In Robert Fulghum’s list, certain words stand out in relation to stranger safety awareness: Watch out; Stick together; and LOOK. Awareness is learned more by copying a parent’s behavior than by a structured lesson in a classroom. Emphasizing the Buddy System is not only smart in school hallways but when allowing a child freedom of movement to visit friends or playgrounds. Playing games such as I spy with my little eyes from an appropriately early age develop a keener sense of one’s surroundings. The emphasis on who might enter a child’s personal space cannot be overemphasized. Fulghum’s view, Don’t take things that aren’t yours, might be used as a discussion starter between parent and child concerning invasion of personal space. This all comes down to preparation for a test, possibly a once in a lifetime test, that a child must PASS.

People are welded to the present. In the here and now a person must act. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business, wrote in a book review for the New York Times, Since you’ll never have enough information to make the best choice, all you can do is make the best of the choice you’ve made. The task as parents, guardians and educators is to engagingly, quietly, and assuredly prepare our children as best we can for something we hope never happens. A former peer loved to opine the five P’s: Prior planning prevents poor performance.

WATCH OUT! STICK TOGETHER! LOOK! Well stated.

Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week Coming Up

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Next week kicks off Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week in New York State. The calendar is packed with live presentations, the website has been humming with downloads of the free curriculum and the foundation is buzzing with excitement for the broadcast of PIX11’s broadcast of Tamsen Fadal’s Changemakers, highlighting the foundation’s work regarding stranger safety.

Each day next week, we will be dropping a blog about a different stranger safety awareness tip to help open the discussion with your children about the dangers strangers may pose. We stress the importance of never going anywhere with a stranger – an all too common theme on the nightly news as attempted abductions seems to happen at an increased rate as of late. Please check in with http://www.rosebrucia.org over the next week and pass along our blogs and lessons to your local PTA organizations and elementary school principals.

In a world that seems to be a little short on kindness, we like to remind children that you may talk politely with strangers, but you must never go with a stranger. Anywhere. Ever.

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

Make it so!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Just the other day, September 18th, Matt and I presented two sessions to students an elementary school on Long Island. In the first session, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in attendance, we spoke of issues concerning personal space and the need to be aware of just who the people you are near to are. Our second session, third graders, fourth and fifth graders, dealt with internet safety.

That evening, I listened to a news item concerning an internet sting operation that New Jersey police had successfully enacted wherein twenty-four, TWENTY-FOUR, potential child predators were apprehended. Today in the Long Island daily, Newsday, police captured a recently released violent offender who had wantonly murdered a coed in Ames, Iowa. According to the article, the alleged predator had spoken about how he wished to “rape and murder a woman.” Previously the similar murder of Mollie Tibbetts had played across the airways, print and social media.

Matt has told me often of comments he has received from other child advocates that our mission was too narrow; that we had to address the issue of predators being familiar to their victims. Others have said we were alarmists in promoting fear of strangers in parents and thereby children. We are not burying our heads in the sand concerning the overwhelming issue of child abduction by persons known by the children. We are responding yesterday, today and tomorrow to what so achingly ravaged a family, the Brucia family. If the news items above don’t speak to the legitimacy of our mission, I ask the doubters to look again.

I leave you with this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.  The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make”?  The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”.

THAT ONE! As Jean Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, echoing the commands of his predecessors in the British navy, would say to his crew, MAKE IT SO!

Be safe! Let all of us make it so!

 

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Super Bowl XXXIII

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

David J. Liberman, PhD, in his book, You Can Read Anyone, calls memory an anchor, an association or link between a specific set of feelings or emotional state and some unique stimulus: an image, sound, name or taste.

Do you recall SuperBowl XXXVIII? In what Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King called the greatest SuperBowl of all time, the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29. The game, played on February 1, 2004, was decided on a field goal with four seconds left on the clock. Tom Brady was named the MVP as the Patriots won their second Lombardi Trophy in three years. Replays of the kick would be shown over and over for the next few days. Replays of Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show would be replayed far more often than the game. Remember it now?

Another video replay would also make its way to television sets throughout the country that week. The setting was Evie’s Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, Florida. People in the community knew that cutting through its parking area allows you to round the corner and save some walking time. Many had done it before; many do so today. Carlie Brucia would not get the chance.

          Video surveillance cameras at the car wash caught a not too clear image of Carlie being grabbed and pulled away by a man dressed in work clothes, his name fuzzily scrawled on a patch on his chest. It is the last picture of this young girl, too easily recalled for family, friends, law-enforcement officials, and interested by-standers who have viewed it online: the young girl being forcibly dragged towards the unknown abductor’s car, an old station wagon, off camera.

If you go online to view or review this video, you cannot but help feel the need to speak out to the child, to shout some warning that danger lies near. Mark Twain wrote that man is like the moon; everyone has a dark side. Masks are part of everyone’s psyche.

We will never know why Carlie walked unaware into mortal danger.

Here’s a question for you: When you look at the world, what do you see? If you are like me, you see a world that is the reflection of you, of all you know and think you know. Did Carlie see any reason to be upset, worried or scared?

William Butler Yeats said, There are no strangers only friends we haven’t met yet. This is a lovely sentiment but begs qualification. Say it to a child, profess its truth and you may place an innocent in harm’s way.

How many of us tell our children to respect adults, adults are in charge, that children owe these people obedience due to their authority? Saul McLeod, in a 2007 article, Obedience to Authority, stated Obedience is a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure. It is assumed that without such an order the person would not have acted in this way. Obedience occurs when you are told to do something (authority). Obedience involves a hierarchy of power / status. Therefore, the person giving the order has a higher status than the person receiving the order.

          So we prepare and reinforce the template for dealing with authority for our children. It is possible that children a) accept as permissible the commands of an adult whether or not they hold a position of authority, b) regard the position held as the reason to obey such a command, or c) base the acceptability of the command on a combination of position of power or just by the person being an adult.

What goes on in the mind of a child? Do you know? I surely do not. Our children, no matter what we think they know, what they tell us, what they keep from us due to fear of disappointing us or from some overwhelming sense of shame, remain deep secrets and mysteries to us.

I believe I read of John Walsh, Adam’s father, saying something like I wish I had taught him to scream instead of worrying about some stranger’s feelings. He further said, Adam’s abduction was our private hell-but it was not an isolated incident. On any given day, any number of children are absent from their homes for diverse and numerous reasons.

The why of Carlie’s behavior remains a mystery. Her fate was a tragedy.

February 1, 2018 is the 14th anniversary of Carlie’s passing.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Warning: Danger, Will Robinson!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Some of us may be old enough to remember the Robot alerting the young Will Robinson to the peril of the week on Lost in Space. Such dramatic warnings are not evident in our everyday life. We are, however, silently blasted by alerts of varying alarm. Electrical devices and appliances all have warnings attached. Our medicines all carry warnings lest litigation is pursued. Leave your home and you might see Beware of Dog signs affixed to fences or gates. Get into your car and you see those lovely yellow signs alerting you to pedestrian crossings, curves in the roadway, numerous situations where caution is urged. Signs in red speak to truly hazardous possibilities on the street. Enter a building and caution is urged because of slippery floors. Signs on doors identify restricted areas. It’s amazing that Stan Berenstain’s Little Bear character was able to say I went to town, not, I’m never going anywhere ever again!

Recently my wife and I went out west and toured through Arizona and Utah, experiencing the wonders of the US National Parks at the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The park rangers hand out cards that urge you to

  • Please follow directions from park rangers – it will be for your safety.

 

    • Always remember that wildlife is just that – wild. If an animal feels cornered or trapped, it will protect itself.
  • If you’re heading off for a walk tell a family member of your timings and location.
  • If you are threatened by wildlife – stay calm; keep eye contact; back away; and do not run.

 

These safety alerts further state: Sometimes the best relationship is a long-distance relationship offering suggestions as to appropriate distances to stay from the animal inhabitants of the parks. There are no yellow or red signs to remind you.

For those of you who read our blogs and have seen our school presentations, the melding of these park ranger statements with our stranger safety message is close to 100%. Almost all the above (we, of course, urge any child in a situation with an aggressive or threatening stranger to RUN) can be adapted to our teaching points. Our goal is to empower a child in that particular, singular event when the child finds himself or herself ALONE and feels threatened. We want every child to be able to recall words or phrases that flash yellow warning lights in their brains or red flashing lights accompanied with siren sounds that prompt their bodies’ flight or fight response to the stress of a given situation.

Good teaching never ends. There are always teachable moments. Here are a few to stress about stranger safety awareness.

  • No matter how harmless a person appears, you cannot predict what they will do.
  • If the person changes their behavior as they approach you or seem nervous, stay very far away.
  • Don’t be fooled by flattery.
  • Do not pose for any pictures with a stranger.
  • Never approach a stranger.
  • Give a stranger space.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.  These words of the Dalai Lama are timeless. Would that his message seep into the hearts and souls of those among us who do otherwise to children.

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Déjà Vu

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Taken from the French expression, literally meaning “already seen,” déjà vu is that eerie sense of “I’ve experienced this before.” This may occur from the current situation producing some clues that may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience.

In 2004, Central Florida TV station Local 6 reported that investigators found 11-year old Carlie Brucia’s remains between 12:45 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Friday, February 5th outside a church a few miles from the car wash where she was taken.

“Our prayers on behalf of everybody here in Sarasota County go out to the family,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill in a press conference, naming Joseph P. Smith, 37, as the suspect who was charged with the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Smith had been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records and convicted of drug possession and other charges. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges, but was acquitted a year later.

Investigators found the body after negotiations with Smith, said the TV report. Earlier it had been said that Smith, believed to be the tattooed man in a mechanic’s shirt shown in the surveillance video leading Carlie away by the hand, had not been cooperating during police questioning.

At a nationally televised press conference shortly after 7 on Friday morning, sheriff’s authorities announced, “We have found Carlie and the person responsible for her murder is in custody.”

Forrest Carr, in his February 17, 2004 article, Covering Carlie: A News Director’s Perspective, said

  • Some critics believe the media exploited Carlie Brucia.
  • We needlessly frightened parents and children… leaving people with a distorted view of reality and a feeling that the world is scarier than it really is.
  • I would venture to guess that every mother in America had a conversation with her child about strangers. Every parent I know had such a conversation. Every teacher I know did the same.
  • They had the conversations because for one heart-rending week, not just the community but the entire world was reminded that monsters do walk amongst us, and that we need to be aware of that. Telling children about this is not an easy conversation to have. It frightens them. Though painful, it’s an inoculation against a reality of life that many parents have come to feel is necessary. It is necessary. (Emphasis mine).

 

On May 31, 2017 twelve year old Naomi Jones was reported missing from her home. Last known contact with the child was by a friend who had texted her at 12:21pm that day. Police theorized that Naomi probably died within 24-36 hours of her abduction. Her body was found by fishermen on June 5th. The Sheriff’s department noted Naomi may have been a possible target through social media.

Several years ago I wrote a short blog entitled There be monsters! I spoke of imaginary as well as real individuals who inflicted unspeakable harm to children and their families.

Pensacola, Florida is located in Escambia County. The county’s Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy, Chip Simmons announced that a convicted sex offender, in prison for 15 years for two counts of sexual assault and rape, released from prison 4 years ago, was arrested. Simmons said, “We have caught our MONSTER (emphasis mine). We have caught the killer that took Naomi’s life-a twelve year old girl who had her whole life in front of her.”

That word, MONSTER, describes so clearly the revulsion the rest of society holds for these killers of children. As Forrest Carr said, the painful conversation between parents/guardians and the children they raise is NECESSARY. Carr described the dialogue as an inoculation. I am sure we all recall how we winced as the needle with the preventative medicine neared our child’s arm. I suggest it is time to have another such important discussion with our children. Dr. Charles Kolenik noted that booster shots of reminding and refreshing the concepts of stranger safety help keep the original inoculation strong.

These cases of déjà vu we can do without.

As always, and especially now with the freedom of summer vacation upon us, Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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