Just a day or two after Poway High School student Chelsea King was raped an murdered in February, teenage girls from Ramona Community School’s Mountain Valley Academy discussed safety concerns with Principal Carol Tennebaum.
“One of the girls ... wanted to see if we could have some type of self-defense classes at MVA next year,” said Tennebaum, who arranged for a personal safety class on several Ramona Unified School District campuses.
The third personal safety session was held last Thursday evening at Ramona Community School. Earlier in the day, one was held at Montecito High School.
Barbara Wallace, crime prevention specialist at the sheriff’s Ramona Substation, is leading the classes. Nearly 100 girls in grades seven through 12 have participated in the sessions since they began in March.
“The first one had the greatest number of participants,” said Wallace. “That is understandable because it was immediately following the Chelsea King tragedy. People were scared and it was still fresh in their minds.”
Though nothing has happened within the school district to warrant fear, the school’s proactive stance in regards to the safety of the campuses has already brought about changes, said Tennebaum. After talking with Wallace, Tennebaum said that a few large bushes were removed to improve cross-campus visibility at Ramona Community. Students are provided with pamphlets and information to improve personal safety and awareness, and personal safety workshops are expected to improve appropriate responses in dangerous situations.
“It is more important,” said Wallace, “to prevent an opportunity for crime to happen than it is to know how to defend yourself.”
Wallace has been in martial arts for 30 years and holds a master’s black belt in Kung Fu San Soo.
“It isn’t about coming in to see the most effective way to beat someone up,” she said. “I know someone who has been taking martial arts classes for five years, yet she froze when something happened.”
It is easier to prevent a crime than it is to respond after something has already started, she said.
Wallace explained to the group that for crime to happen there needs to be three things: a victim, a perpetrator and opportunity. If one does not provide an opportunity to a criminal, then there cannot be a victim, she said — period.
Everyone has a daily routine that is unique to him or her. Wallace explained ways for people to think ahead of possible scenarios and ways to respond “if” the scenarios ever happened.
“Know who and what is around you,” she said. “Listen to that inner ‘creep monitor’ that everyone has. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, then don’t go near them and get away from the situation. Your number one tool for crime prevention is your brain.”
For more information about crime prevention, contact Wallace at 760-738-2425 or Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org.