Stranger tries to pick up student at Seminole Elementary

OKEECHOBEE — A very wise boy at Seminole Elementary School avoided a dangerous situation Wednesday when a stranger approached him and offered to take him home.

Deputy Yero Todman, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), indicated in his report that as the boy was walking to the school’s infirmary before lunch, the white male approached him.

The stranger reportedly told the boy he was there to pick him up. But, without hesitation, the boy simply kept walking.

That, said Renee Geeting, the assistant superintendent of administrative services for Okeechobee County Schools, was the right thing to do.

“He was very smart and we certainly want to complement him on what he did. I only wish he had told someone right then,” she said.

Apparently, the child didn’t tell anyone about the incident until he told his mother later that day. She then contacted the sheriff’s office around 7 p.m.

Ms. Geeting said Thursday afternoon, Oct. 27, she did not know why the boy was going to the school’s infirmary.

Deputy Todman’s report described the man as being in his early 40s, with dark blonde hair and a beard. He was wearing a white T-shirt with a gray hoodie and red and blue jogging pants.

Ms. Geeting said it was her understanding the boy was walking along a walkway at the school where parents normally pick up their children.

“I believe he (the stranger) just drove in where parents drive in — that’s my understanding,” said Ms. Geeting. “To our knowledge he (the stranger) did not talk to any other children and he did not make physical contact with the boy.”

She went on to say the man may have been driving a white, four-door Subaru.

She went on to say the school’s principal, Dr. Thelma Jackson, was going to talk to the student to try and learn more about what happened.

As for what a child should do when confronted by a stranger in this type of situation, Ms. Geeting said the boy did the right thing by getting away. She said students at Seminole Elementary normally walk in pairs for safety.

Deputy Captain Gary Bell, who heads up the OCSO road patrol division, said even though he has viewed surveillance video from the school it was difficult to discern the man’s identity.

“At this point in time, we really don’t now who that person was,” he said.

Like Ms. Geeting, Capt. Bell said the boy’s inclination to put distance between him and the stranger was the correct thing to do.

“If you don’t feel comfortable or you don’t know this person — get away,” offered Capt. Bell.

He went on to say this is something parents should constantly bring up to their children.

“This should be talked about religiously,” he continued.

The captain went on to say it’s been a long time since a situation like this has occurred in a local school.

Stranger Danger

Parents, please take the time to look at these security tips and review with your child and teen to make sure they know what to do if put in a frightening situation if approached by a stranger.
• A stranger is ANYONE they don’t know.
• It is okay to say NO to an adult, if they feel uncomfortable or don’t know the adult, even if it seems rude.
• To not wear any type of headphones while outside. This will make them oblivious to any vehicle or person stalking them.
• They know that NO ONE has the right to touch them if they don’t want them too.
• They should tell a parent if they are asked to keep a secret.
• They should never get into anyone’s car without their parent’s permission.
• They should not take candy or gifts from a stranger.
• They should never help strangers. Remember, tell your children that grownups should NOT ask kids to do things that other adults can do for them.
• They run away from a car that pulls up beside them if they do not know the driver.
• They never say they are alone when they answer the phone and should never answer the door if they are alone.
• They never invite people into their home without their parents’ permission.
• They always let their parents know where they are.
• That they never play in deserted buildings or isolated areas.
• They should scream for help if they are forced into a car or building.
• How to identify “safe” people (like store clerks, mothers with children, and police officers/security officers) if ever lost.
• They always let you know where they are playing at a park or playground.
• Tell an adult if a stranger is taking a picture of you.

Parent’s Checklist:

• I have a recent photo of my child, his/her fingerprints, and a current record of his/her height and weight.
• I have my cellular phone charged up.
• I make a mental note of what my child is wearing every day.
• I carefully check babysitter and child care references.
• I know my child’s friends’ names, addresses and phone numbers.
• I always accompany my young child to a public bathroom.
• I designated a neighbor’s home as a “safe house” where my child can go if I’m not home and there is an emergency.
• I have discussed with my child that they will not approach a vehicle if it stops and asks them questions, offers them candy or toys, or wants to talk with them.
• I will report suspicious vehicles or people to law enforcement.
• Does my child know how to dial 911?
• I have talked to my children about strangers.
• I will not let my child walk home alone or stand alone at a bus stop without adequate supervision.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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