Several school districts in northwest Ohio have signed up for the Sierah Strong program, which enables children to protect themselves if they are attacked.
TOLEDO, Ohio – Local children are learning how to ward off predators and evade attackers by giving self-defense lessons in physical education classes.
It’s a pilot program that kids are using to learn how to protect themselves. It was started by a family who learned that anyone can be taken anytime.
“It’s scary, especially when you grow up, especially as a girl. You have to learn to protect yourself in difficult situations,” said sixth grader Layla Taytart.
The program is called Sierah Strong, named after the 20-year-old Sierah Joughin, who was ripped off her bike by a violent criminal and murdered almost five years ago.
Her aunt Tara Ice made it a full-time job protecting other women and children from the same fate.
“A class is better than having none at all. But it is not enough. Then we started Sierah Strong for the schools. And the idea is that these children learn techniques every year and it becomes rooted in them. That security is important and when they are attacked it goes without saying and they know what to do, “said Ice, President and Founder of Justice for Sierah, Inc ..
Justice for Sierah has been providing community self-defense for years, but this is the first time it’s been offered to schools as part of the health and exercise curriculum to instill situational awareness and use your body to get away.
Cardinal Stritch and West Side Montessori are helping the organization solve the problems before opening them to other schools in our region and across the country this fall.
“My primary focus here at Cardinal Stritch is child safety, so if I can be involved in a small nugget or piece that can help keep my students safe, I’ll be there,” said Headmistress Melissa Empie.
According to Empie, children have learned for years how to get away from intruders using the ALICE program, but Sierah Strong goes one step further.
“It teaches them, when you can’t get out, how do you protect yourself until you can escape? I guess it teaches them, not even as much as for the school environment, as if you are in the park or you are in the mall, how to defend themselves until they can escape. That’s the piece I love that teaches them what to do outside the security of our four walls, “Empie said.
“As a kid, we sometimes think these things are not going to happen to me, like, ‘this is a sad story, but it won’t happen to me. And we understand that. But we want to teach them, we want to empower them to know what to do if something should happen, “said Ice.
When Cardinal Stritch’s gym teacher, who is also a grandpa, hears of Sierah’s devastating death and is able to keep children safe, he meets near home.
“I am honored. I am absolutely honored to teach this,” said Bob Frank.
And Sierah’s aunt knows she would be proud to see so many children empowered to protect themselves.
“She’s always the one with her finger on my back and pushing me to go forward, so I know she’d be so happy,” said Ice.
More counties and grades are required to join this fall.
If you are looking to bring Sierah Strong to your child’s school, please click this link for more information.
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