By Uli Gebhard, Suarez International Staff Instructor
A day and a half into the new school year I saw a forum post of one of my students
: His son had just started Kindergarten in Hermosa Beach, CA and at the end of the first day, a guy blends in with the parents who are picking up their kids. He calls one of the little boys over by his name and starts talking to him. Keep in mind that most kids have their name on all their stuff so that it won’t get lost. Thankfully, the teachers realized very soon that something was wrong when none of them recognized the man. As soon as they began approaching him, he ran.
Our kids had started school one week earlier and my student’s post was a grim reminder to be alert and ready to take action if someone were to be a threat to them.
When it comes to our children, we are their first line of defense. We do not have the luxury to evade and wait for the threat to subside or for someone to come to our aid. When we are with our kids, we are what stands between them and the threat. In school their teachers and school staff are responsible for their safety, but it is up to us parents to determine if the school itself has adequate procedures in place. Do the kids stay in the classroom until their parents pick them up, are there enough teachers and assistants around to make sure all kids are accounted for at all times? These are basic questions that will provide some insight into the security measures of the school.
How about the security we can provide for them when we take them to and from school? Let’s start with the most basic measure: Awareness.
Walk onto any playground in your area and take a look at the parents: Some will play with their kids, some will stand on the side watching them play and then there are the texters and talkers – those parents who cannot stay off their phone or who are so addicted to facebook and similar sites that they have their eyes glued to the screen for the majority of the time. What these guys do is to provide an opportunity for someone to approach a child and lure him or her away. By the time the parent looks up, they need to scan around where little Tommy has ran to. I believe you get the picture.
Think of yourself as your child’s protective detail. It’s your job to keep your eyes open so that you know where they are and what is around them. I have three kids under the age of nine. I’d be the last one to tell you that this is an easy task. On the contrary: Many times I have to convince one of them to play in a different area, where the other two siblings are. And while I would like to be right in the middle, where I can get to each of them quickly, I rather stand over to the side where I can see all three and the area around them.
Some kids are very alert and will often tell you if something feels out of place for them. Kids usually have good instincts – if they have a concern, it should be something for the parent to be aware of.
As long as you can see what is around you, you can intervene if something does not seem right, just as the teachers did in the example above. In this case, just approaching a suspicious person was sufficient to cause him to flee. While this is a good outcome, this could easily have turned ugly. If the person has a tendency to violence, he may choose fight over flight. Let’s keep this example within the vicinity of a school. Many states declare schools and areas around them (e.g. 1000 feet in CA) as gun free zones. It would be nice if criminals stuck to the laws – in fact, that would end their criminal careers right there – but they have the ugly habit to break the law.
Unless living in a state such as Utah that allows on-campus carry, it this means for the law-abiding parent that our most effective defensive tool will not be legally available when taking your child to school or picking him up.
Some may say “concealed is concealed” – that would be a choice that they make including acceptance of possible consequences. This be as it may – let’s keep our focus on the legally available defensive tools.
Legal to carry in most areas when you pick your child up at school: folding knife, tactical pen, tactical flashlight, pepperspray
- Irritating Agents
- (Improvised) Impact Weapons
- Edged Weapons
A lot of people ask me about pepperspray, CS gas and the like. It can give an attacker something to alter his perspective on the fight and provide you with an opportunity to render him harmless and get yourself and yours to safety. If it hits the perpetrator in the face and does what the label says, so much the better. The challenge with pepperspray is that many people see it as the one-thing-cures-all approach. What they overlook, is that they themselves will have issues if wind blows it back into their face or if those they want to protect get a dose of it. Used indoors chances are that many people surrounding the confrontation will be affected by it. This can make additional combatives or evasion difficult.
Various Pepperspray sizes, from the keychain size to palm-filling: The smaller ones can easily be carried in your pocket.
Personally, I see pepperspray and the like as a tool against dogs and as a fight-opener for two-legged vermin that is best used outdoors. I would keep it concealed, such as palming the can, surprise the attacker with a good taste of it and immediately follow up with combatives or improvised/edged weapons while he is preoccupied at best or mildly distracted at worst.
Again, used in school-pickup environment, chances are high that not only the perpetrator will get hit. This is something to consider when you devise your strategy.
Tasers are becoming popular here in CA. I know several people who carry them in lieu to a firearm since Sheriffs such as Lee Baca in Los Angeles and Sandra Hutchens in Orange County have decided that “personal protection” is not a sufficient “good cause” to grant a CCW.
A Glock 19 disappears in Appenix carry - with an untucked shirt a taser such as this C2 will be invisible.
The basic idea of the taser is good. It works at distance from a dangerous person and –given the device works as advertised- will allow incapacitating an attacker. I have no personal experience with tasers. The idea of a single-shot weapon used on a moving target within fifteen feet max range is not something I’m terribly comfortable with. I also heard mixed reports about the effects of tasers. In the vast majority of cases they seem to work outstandingly well, instantly taking the bad guy out of the fight. However, there have been a number of instances where the effect was minimal and/or the bad guy ripped the electrode darts out of his clothing and continued to fight.
If that happens, the taser can still be used with contact electrodes, but this has two disadvantages: Without the darts, the taser is in drive stun mode, which causes pain, but does not have the neuro-muscular incapacitation (MNI). You also have to consider that you are now facing a person that knows what weapon you have. Chances are that his first objective will be to either trap the taser or to take it away from you.
This may eliminate the option to access a backup weapon. Again, tasers seem to work the majority of the time, but you need to have a backup plan in case things go South, such as the taser not showing effect or one or both of the electrode darts missing their target.
Improvised/impact weapons have one severe disadvantage: they are contact weapons and you have to be within arm’s reach of an attacker to use them. Their advantage is that they can be kept ready without raising suspicion. A tactical pen or flashlight can be in your hand without raising any red flags; after all, you’re just signing a form for your youngster or reminding the cub scouts in your son’s class that a night hike is coming up.
Kubotan, tactical pens and tactical flashlights - note that the pens do not have to look tacticool at all.
These weapons can be immediately available to you to dish out a couple of hard-hitting blows. Ladies – you do not have to be a UFC-style fighter to cause some effect with these tools. SI-instructor Corinna Coplin has some outstanding advice on fighting mindset and techniques specifically for women.
The key point with improvised weapons is that they are just that – improvised. They provide a tool that you can use to gain the advantage in an altercation. You can force an opponent to react to you. In other words, these weapons can open the door for you to take the initiative. Once you are at this point, it’s time to follow through and take the attacker out of the fight. This can be taking his mobility with either combatives, or an edged weapon, it can be as simple as shoving him into a room and locking him in.