Schools take lead in educating on child safety following Ridgeway case, local worries

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Officials at Brighton 27J Schools are asking parents to remain vigilant in looking out for their children following an incident Oct. 23 where a man asked a student to get into his car.
    District spokesman Kevin Denke said the events of the past several weeks have been important reminders of the need to always look out for the safety of our children. He said the safety of the students “is our utmost priority as a school district” although protecting the district’s children is a shared responsibility.
    “We encourage parents to take the time to talk to their children about strangers and take the necessary precautions to keep them safe,” he said.  “Likewise, we encourage our community as a whole to be aware of anything that they might deem suspicious. We should work together as a community to keep our children safe.”
    Denke said in light of the Jessica Ridgeway case, the district provided tips for parents on keeping children safe via email. Tips the district provided to parents from www.missingkids.com include having their child:
    — Take a friend when walking, biking or standing at the bus stop.
    — Saying no to anyone who makes them feel scared and not accepting a ride from anyone without parent approval.
    — Getting away and yelling if anyone tries to take them somewhere.
    — Never leave school grounds.
    — Never take short cuts or walk through alley ways to get to and from school.
    District officials are also working to put together a possible community meeting where parents can come and learn more about child safety, according to Denke. He said specific details are not available yet but the district hopes to announce something soon.
    Police are still searching for the man and are asking for the public’s help to locate him, according to spokesman John Bradley. The male suspect, who approached the student in his vehicle while she was walking near South Second Avenue and Mather Street around 8:25 a.m., was driving a red or maroon four-door vehicle with some black coloring near the rear of the vehicle and was wearing a gray hoodie-type sweatshirt.
    Bradley said police are continuing to increase their patrolling of area schools.
Police are still working to develop all investigative leads in the incident and have increased patrols around area schools.
    Anyone observing suspicious activity in progress should call 911. Police are also asking anyone with information about these incidents contact the Brighton Police Department tip line at 303-655-8740.