PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Parents and school officials across the Region 8 viewing area are reacting to recent child abduction reports throughout the country. Recent news from Florida has sparked conversations within school administrations. A seven-year old child was found dead in a landfill after she got into an argument with her brother on the way home from school.
Region 8 News talked to several parents Thursday to find out what they tell their children to keep them safe from strangers.
"She had no business walking home by herself because she's not old enough. To develop and mentally make decisions on what she should do if she was in a situation that was dangerous," said Starla Wood.
Wood is a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Paragould. Woodrow Wilson teaches more than 370 children each year.
"I left a school that I was teaching at and the walkers had already been released to go home and the teachers had been released to go home. As I was making the block, there was a little kindergarten girl sitting in the street crying," said Wood. "She and her brother were walkers and he had ran off and left her and she was two streets over and had no idea how she should get home."
Wood said parents are responsible for their children once they leave school property. Wood said she believed parents are in charge of their safety.
"It was actually placed in the lap of the brother to make sure she was where she was supposed to be and he ran off and left her," said Wood. "I think it's the responsibility of the parent to safeguard them. You don't talk to strangers. You go straight home. If you have a sibling, you don't leave that sibling behind, especially if they're younger than you. You're responsible for helping to get them home."
Richard Shelby is Deputy Superintendent of the Paragould School District. He told Region 8 News that Woodrow Wilson has security cameras and procedures in place to keep children safe in times of natural disaster and other instances on school grounds.
"There's usually a holding area for the kids to report to and it's supervised," said Shelby. "Your greatest area of concern is going to and from school. There's no one there to supervise."
"Kids don't need to be alone. They don't need to talk to strangers. They need to run (if threatened). Don't do those things. Parents need to know the kids routine and know where they're going and where they're walking," said Shelby. "Most of these abductions and things occur when they get a kid isolated. Not always, but that's the general rule. Then you go a step further, besides abductions and things, you don't want a child being run over when walking on the street."
Shelby said teachers at Woodrow Wilson tell their students to watch out for strangers and stay together. That advice is used during field trips.
"We get requests all the time. I really need my child to ride this bus because the older brother is there or older sister is there and they'll watch after them," said Shelby.
Both Shelby and Wood are parents, but Region 8 News also spoke with parents outside of the school setting.
"Either my wife or I will walk them across the street and around the block over to the school. We walk them up to the ramp and then we leave them there and walk home," said Curt Dwyer.
Dwyer is pastor of the St. John's Lutheran Church in Lafe. He lives approximately two blocks from Woodrow Wilson Elementary.
"People notice things and it's not always the people you want noticing things," said Dwyer.
Dwyer, father of three, said his wife was talking to her clients one day in downtown Paragould. They said they recognized Curt walking their children to school, which spooked his wife Renee.
"If the nice people are paying attention to these things, there are probably some not so nice people that may also be paying attention to these things. We've made it a habit to always be with our children when we're going back and forth to school," said Dwyer. "There are always people watching kids when they're going back and forth to school. They may be watching them to make sure they get to where they need to go and they may be watching for an opportunity to do something."
Dwyer said he didn't believe kids who walk home in groups was enough to keep them safe; however, he acknowledged it was better than having them walk alone.
"No group of kids is ever going to understand the implications of what they might or might not do. They may do something in fun and not understand the consequences that it could have," said Dwyer. "Kids are kids. Things happen and they don't always think through what the implications might be of something."