How many times have we heard or told our kids phrases like “If you behave badly, I will tell the police,” “Look, there are the police, so stay put,” “Disobedient children are taken by the police.” Over the years, we have learned to see the police with a lot of fear and suspicion.
Facing this reality, Ana Arias, who has been teaching for the past 20 years and who currently works at Gloria Floyd Elementary School in South Miami, decided to change this misconception in the minds of children.
In 2013, she approached the School Police Department to work together on a program that would teach the children to see the police officers as friends. This is how the program known as “Kindergarten Cop” was born. Its mission is to develop a positive relationship between law enforcement and early childhood students, forging a bond built on trust, values and decision-making.
“Our children are hearing on television or from their parents every day what is happening with terrorism or violence in schools. We want to educate them in security matters and who better than police officers to teach them,” Arias said.
This program, as its name says, is aimed at children between the ages of five and six who are in kindergarten for instructing them from an early age to keep a watchful eye on what happens at school, encourage other students to be good citizens, good neighbors, and be proud of their school. Also, promote a safe and productive learning environment by participating in the program.
Topics promoted include reporting of crimes, personal safety, bullying and drug prevention, school violence, cyber bullying, sexting, alcohol, gun safety, school violence, conflict resolution and gangs and vandalism.
Kindergarten Cop is taught throughout the school year, and Ms. Arias has made it part of the social studies curriculum focused on values of respect, responsibility, and in being good citizens, neighbors, workers, and in making the right decisions that benefit them.
“We want children to be informed of everything relating to safety and that they become aware of what it is being part of a community, in this case part of the school community and later of the society in which they can help avoid problems by coming close to the corresponding authorities and denouncing what is happening,” said the educator. She has also joined efforts with programs such as Youth Crime Watch and Amigos for Kids to complement teaching with various activities in the community such as taking students’ fingerprints, doing community improvement projects, honoring veterans, collecting toys and food, just to name a few.
Ms. Arias acknowledges that children have learned a lot, and there is greater camaraderie and awareness of what is happening in their surroundings.
The goal is that in the future more schools join the initiative. Currently only Gloria Floyd and Kendale Lakes Elementary Schools are participating. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, both schools received an important recognition from Ms. Lubby Navarro, a member of The School Board of Miami-Dade County representing District 7.
“The District’s Kindergarten Cop Program is an amazing preventative program that’s making a positive impact in the lives of our young children in our schools by teaching them the values necessary to grow up as responsible citizens in our community,” Ms. Navarro said.
Haz clic para leer en Español: Kindergarten Cop: Aprendiendo a no tener miedo a los policías