BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The recent arrests of a Moss Point coach, a St. Patrick teacher and an Ocean Springs bus driver have a lot of South Mississippi parents wondering just how safe their children are when they go to school. The adults are all accused of illegal, sexual activity with students.
Thursday morning, Biloxi's North Bay Elementary School found a unique way to teach its children who to talk to, and who to trust.
"What did you learn today?" I asked Ethan Hoyt.
"That you run away from strangers," he said.
"Just run away. If you don't know them, just run away," Danyell Jones also replied.
First graders Hoyt and Jones are right. The lesson behind this puppet show teaches young children how they can protect themselves from strangers.
"Why do you think that's important?" I asked.
"Because you might be in danger," Hoyt answered.
Through simple skits, the puppets acted out different scenarios children may face with strangers or even family members.
Jessica Cloyd is a member of the Junior Auxiliary of Biloxi and Ocean Springs and said the "someone to talk to" puppet show is geared toward students in kindergarten through second grade. The show is performed in an entertaining way so children pay attention and learn what to do if they ever face a situation that scares them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
"You keep on asking until someone listens," A'niah Collins said.
"My favorite character was the girl who ran away, because that was a very good thing to do because she didn't know the person," Jones said.
The most important lesson from the show is for kids to go to an adult they trust, like a parent or a teacher.
"I think it's always important to tell them to talk to someone they trust, and not just Mom and Dad, but teachers, principals, the school nurse, a neighbor. Anyone out there that can be a confidant for your child and help them kind of navigate through these troubled scenarios that can be happening to them," Cloyd said.
Although this particular program is geared toward lower elementary students, it's always important for any minor to know it's okay to take control of their safety. It's also important for parents to look for behavioral changes from their child, that may signify that they've been put in a harmful situation.