By the smiles on their faces, it’s clear these kindergarten students are having fun, but they’re also learning and what they’re being taught could one day save their lives.
Their teacher is Lauren Book, a former sex abuse victim turned child advocate. In 2009, Book publicly broke her silence about the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of her nanny.
For three years she’s walked the state to raise awareness, and now she’s turned her struggle into a six week course teaching kindergartener students how to avoid sexual predators. “We do address the differences between safe touch and unsafe touch and we do that from a place of fun not fear.”
The course is in elementary schools statewide and through a picture book kids are taught how to report sexual abuse by explaining the difference between a safe secret and an unsafe secret.
The program spares the children the ugly nature of abuse; instead it teaches them how to spot possible predators.
“90 percent of the time children are abused by someone they know, they love and they trust, so 90 percent of the time it’s someone in that familiar relationship, someone in that school. A lot of times kids think it’s someone wearing black, with messy hair,” said Lauren.
The program is called Safer, Smarter kids and it’s already expanded beyond Florida. The New York Yankees have just donated money to have the course taught in the Bronx.
After kids finish the Safer, Smart Kids Program in kindergarten, they enter another program called Speak Up, Be Safe, which lasts through 5th grade. Florida is the first state in the union to implement sex abuse prevention courses for K through 5th grade.