Tularcitos addresses recent stranger problems

After a Jan. 30 stranger incident near Tularcitos Elementary School, the second incident in the last three months, the Carmel Unified School District is working hard to enforce stranger prevention.

Over the course the past few months, there have been two predator encounters with children off-campus after leaving Tularcitos in the afternoon.

The first happened Dec. 10 when a student was walking from Tularcitos to the Carmel Valley Library after school and was approached by a middle-aged man with dark skin, medium height and build, wearing a grey beanie. He reportedly told the student, “Come here. I want to give you something.” The student said no and ran to the library.

The more recent incident happened on Jan. 30.When three students were walking through the Village, they were approached by an older Caucasian man with a pot belly and white beard wearing a grey hat. The man told them to “come here” and that he would pay them if they did something for him. The students promptly said no and ran away from the man.

CHS Spanish teacher Bridget Randazzo, a mother of two Tularcitos students, says, “I was really, really scared. It kind of reinforced the lesson for my girls too about what they need to do.”

In the beginning of the year, Tularcitos brought in a taekwondo instructor to have an assembly focused on “stranger danger” and taught students when a predator approaches them to scream “No!” or “You are not my parent!” in order to get the attention of adults around.

According to Tularcitos Principal Ryan Peterson, “Making sure students know what to do in that type of situation is important, which is why we make sure to cover it for our students and parents.”

These lessons were followed up when the Monterey Rape Crisis Center talked to students at the school, reinforcing what was previously taught about “stranger danger.” And after the December incident, each staff member also reviewed with students what to do when a stranger approaches them.

CHS history teacher Brent Silva, a father of two Carmel River School students, says, “I tell my kids never to talk with strangers or go with strangers and that people might try to use different things like candy or toys or whatever to trick them.”

On the Tularcitos campus there are strict policies set in place to prevent intruders. There is only one unfenced entrance onto the campus, next to the office, so every person that comes onto the school’s campus is seen. Each visitor must wear a visitor’s pass, which Peterson says is strictly enforced by all staff members.

The principal adds, “I think the fact that in both incidents the students did the right thing says a lot about how…the students are getting the message.”

-HELAINE RIDILLA