Teachers: Tantrums, 'Naughty' Behavior Could Save Lives

RAVENNA, Ohio (AP) - Some teachers are showing hundreds of children how to throw screaming fits in public, set off car alarms, cling to a grown-up's leg, rip out a car's brake light wires, force a collision and stuff their socks down the toilet.

Escape School teaches that in an attempted abduction, throwing a tantrum could save a child's life.

Highly publicized kidnappings, including the abduction of a 14-year-old found dead after she disappeared from the Wayne County Fair, have increased the popularity of the free one-hour courses.

Dignity Memorial, a nationwide network of funeral homes and cemeteries, sponsors the classes, which often are taught by law enforcement officers. Last month, an Escape School class in the northeast Ohio community of Green attracted 300 children and parents.

At a class attended by 25 youngsters last week in Ravenna, 8-year-old Roby Flecksteiner demonstrated how to cling to a reluctant bystander to get help escaping an abductor.

"Please help me!" Roby said, trying to get the attention of Don Harvey, of Wood-Kortright funeral home, playing the bystander.

"No, I don't want to help you," Harvey said.

Roby then leaped onto him, swinging from Harvey's arm like a monkey.

"Please help me," he pleaded over the laughter of his peers.

Harvey and Portage County sheriff's Deputy Rachel Spence also showed how to escape when grabbed by the wrist: Swing the arms wildly like a windmill, twisting the abductor's arm.

"You can't really tell a good stranger from a bad stranger by how they look, right?" Spence asked the children.

Children should judge strangers by their actions and how they make them feel, she said.

A preschool-age girl remembered that lesson after attending Escape School last May in Stow, Harvey said. She yelled and ran to her mother after a suit-wearing stranger driving a BMW approached her as she played in her front yard.

Retired San Francisco police officer Bob Stuber founded Escape School in the mid-1990s. He also produced a 25-minute videotape showing escape techniques, such as clinging to a bicycle to make a child too heavy to grab.

A child trapped in a car's trunk can pull out brake and taillight wires, which would attract police attention, or punch out the light and wiggle a hand through the gap, the tape says.

A child held captive in a hotel room could stuff socks down the toilet and keep flushing until flooded downstairs guests called maintenance.

Rita Fassinger, chairwoman of safety awareness for the Green PTA, organized the class that drew 300 people. At first she worried the specific information might be too frightening for her second-grade daughter, she said.

"She was not threatened," Fassinger said. "She wanted to come home and practice."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)