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.

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.

Stranger Safety Awareness Week: Putting it all together

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I am writing this blog on the last day of the school week of “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week” in New York State.  As I assess the internet results of our blogging campaign this week, I am delighted to find that, just in the last 5 days, our free Stranger Safety Awareness Program has spiked a 60% increase in downloads.  That means that more and more parents, teachers and schools are utilizing our program to bring vital stranger safety skills to more and more children! Each time the program is downloaded, we can safely assume that yet another classroom is engaging in a thought-provoking discussion about stranger safety. Our reach grows exponentially as more teachers and schools share the program within their district.

There is a long list of people who I would like to thank for their involvement in this incredible week. Firstly, I would like to thank NY State Assemblyman Al Graf and Governor Cuomo, who are responsible for making this week a reality – your dedication has made it possible for, literally, thousands of children in the state of New York to become more aware of what they need to know before a stranger approaches.  I would like to thank my supportive Board of Directors who stand behind all the hard work and planning that goes into our everyday mission to reduce child abductions.  Of course, our program would be nothing without our Educational Coordinator, Pat Chierichella, and his extremely talented educational committee, who volunteer their valuable time and expertise to craft educationally sound lesson plans out of what,once, only seemed to be my wild imagination.  Our faithful volunteer committees work hard to plan and execute our very successful events that keep our generous supporters interested in donating to fund our video productions. Finally, our amazing staff, headed by Maryann Barbis, keep working well past their regular work week in order to continually raise the bar on what this foundation continues to deliver to children, not only in this country, but to the other 90 countries across the globe that use the Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Program.

In a world where it is necessary for adults to teach and continually remind children about the dangers that strangers may pose, it is heartwarming to know that this foundation, founded out of the loss of one child, Carlie Brucia, stands as a united front against anyone seeking to harm another innocent child.  The more people who become involved with The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation; it’s strength grows exponentially.  As the old commercial says, “they tell one friend, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on….”. Share the Stranger Safety Awareness Program with as many friends as possible – we will keep developing the lessons to reinforce our mission to reduce child abductions.

Special thanks to David Reich-Hale and the team over at Patch.com for spreading the daily blogs this week across New York State.

carlie-brucia-rose-brucia-educational-foundation

In Loving Memory of Carlie Jane Brucia

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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