BURRILLVILLE – Retired Sgt. Stephen Lombardi believes that kids are safest when they’re empowered to protect themselves, and they have a plan – and a backup plan – for how react in dangerous situations.
A 20 year law-enforcement veteran who spent years dealing with child predators every day as a member of the U.S. Marshals Sex Offender Task Force, Lombardi made sure his own children understood how to handle potential threats.
Starting next month, he plans to help Burrillville students learn how to do the same, through an after school program filled with drills, creative thinking and hand-on learning.
radKids Personal Empowerment and Safety Education training will be held at Steere Farm Elementary School on April 22 and 29, and May 13 for students in grades 3 through 5.
“radKids is about empowering children and parents with a revolutionary skill-based curriculum that strengthens children’s personal boundaries and parental confidence,” notes an announcement on the class.
“Replacing fear with knowledge, skill and power and by enhancing a child’s critical thinking ability and physical resistance skills, our program provides the opportunity for children to recognize, avoid, resist and if necessary, escape violence or harm, while remaining joyful and safer in our world today.”
Lombardi began teaching the course when he was a police officer in Warwick, bringing the program to local schools and Boys & Girls Clubs.
After retirement, be began working for Spartan International Consulting Group, an organization staffed by current and former military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel.
“We do a lot of consulting on the corporate side, and people were asking for personal safety classes,” he said.
Now, the security safety consultant and self protection instructor teaches through the agency.
“I love teaching the program,” he said of the children’s safety course. “It’s great for the kids.”
Lombardi said radKids differs from similar classes in its hands-on approach.
“It’s not only a safety program – it’s a personal empowerment program,” he said.
In the class, students will devise their own safety plans, acting out scenarios for different situations, such as using “the rule of sight sound and distance,” to avoid getting lost.
It also takes the kids’ knowledge a step further with “back up plans” for what to do if, for instance, they do get lost.
“It gives them concrete plans. Here’s how to think on your feet,” Lombardi said. “It’s very empowering for the child. That’s what makes it stand out.”
“The whole theme that carries through the program is: you need to know how to keep yourself safe, because you’re the only one with you 24 hours a day,” he added.
The instructor also aims to teach the students how to speak up and advocate for themselves in situations like dealing with a bully.
“It really covers the full gamut of safety issues that a child might deal with,” Lombardi said.
The class was brought to Burrillville thanks to Supt. Micahel Sollitto, who worked with Lombardi to bring a similar program to Scituate when he worked there. The former officer has coordinated with Andrea Hall from Burrillville’s Parks & Recreation Department to schedule the three-week after school course.
Parents are also invited to attend the class with their children and the instructor says they can also expect to learn a thing or two.
“It’s so powerful to have a parent there,” he said.
The cost for the course is $20, and between 20 and 30 students will have the opportunity to experience the 8-hour curriculum, described as a “snapshot” of a Lombardi’s full children’s safety program.
“It’s really a good taste of what the program has to offer,” he said. “We’re really excited. The kids will be getting some good strategies to keep themselves safe.”
If there’s enough interest in Burrillville, Lombardi said he hopes to bring back the full program.
“I think the ultimate goal is of a program like this is to actually have it be adopted as part of the curriculum for the schools,” he said.
The radKids Safety Education course, sponsored by the Burrillville Parks and Recreation Department, will be held in the Steere Farm Emmentary School Cafeteria on Monday, April 22 and 29, and Monday, May 13 from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. The final class will end with a demonstration and certificate presentation from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m.
Questions can be directed to Lombardi at firstname.lastname@example.org/ or (401) 573-6602.