Several Howard County schools sent emails to parents this week warning of “stranger danger” after a student said a stranger offered him a ride to school Tuesday morning.
Rockburn Elementary School Principal Lauren Bauer sent a letter to parents that a student reported that as he was walking to a bus stop, a man in a silver car pulled up and offered him a ride. When the student called out to a friend and ran away, the letter said, the driver made a u-turn and left.
"Since I had the report, I wanted to let the parents in the area know, and I also let some surrounding schools know that we had sent the letter home and that there had been an incident," Bauer said of sending the letter.
She said that she wanted "to heighten awareness" among both parents and students.
Parents were grateful that they had been informed, according to Bauer.
"Our PTA meeting was last night and they appreciated knowing," said the Rockburn principal in a phone interview on Jan. 5.
Other administrators took the opportunity to communicate about safety procedures as well.
"While this incident did not occur in our community, I felt it was important to reiterate the importance of safety procedures and encourage you to review those procedures with your children," wrote Deep Run Principal Tricia McCarthy in an email to parents.
"If possible, it is best for an adult to walk to the bus stop and wait until children get on the bus."
Administrators also reminded children of ways to keep themselves safe.
Through the health department, "We teach what we call stranger danger," said Bauer. "It's something that we talk about but it doesn’t thank goodness happen that often.
"Especially with the little ones, we want to reiterate because...children tend to talk to someone who talks to them..." said Bauer. She said adults need to remind their kids “that oftentimes a stranger might approach you in a nice way. We want students to know you don’t ever stop and talk with strangers."
In her letter, Bauer reminded parents to talk to their kids about safety issues:
- never speak to strangers,
- never accept a ride from a stranger
- the best action to take if approached by someone in a car is to run away, make noise to attract the attention of others, and find an adult to help
She also said that these kinds of incidents should always be reported to the school and to police.
Howard County Police Spokeswoman Elizabeth Schroen said that this latest incident is under investigation. Police are describing the driver of the silver, four-door sedan was described as a heavy-set white man with brown hair.
In April of 2011, Rockburn administrators sent out this notice:
It has been reported that a stranger in a gray sedan approached and talked to several students in our neighborhoods yesterday. We have taken precautions regarding this report, contacted our security department, and will review safety procedures with students at school today. The police have also been notified. We encourage you to talk to your children about this and review steps necessary to keep them safe in the neighborhood. We also encourage you to help maintain safety by ensuring that an adult monitors the bus stops before and after school.
Schroen said police are investigating this week’s incident as isolated.
This article was updated at 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 7 to reflect that the communication from the Rockburn principal was a hard-copy letter rather than an email to parents.