Minnetonka Public Schools is taking a stand to protect children. Beginning last spring and continuing throughout the 2018-19 school year, the district has embraced a new program that empowers kids as early as Kindergarten with information to help keep them safer.Super Hero Kids is an assault prevention program aimed at children grades K-5 that teaches them how to avoid danger when they are away from their trusted adults by knowing how to recognize when two simple rules are being broken and to learn tools to get away and tell someone what is happening to them. The theme is: Super Hero Kids do difficult things to help themselves and others.
Statistics from the National Violence Resource Center show that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience a sexual assault by the time they are 18, and overwhelming the majority of such assaults are by a person the child knows.
Local healthcare experts, such as pediatrician Dr. Stephen Lutz of Southdale Pediatrics, highly endorses the program for prevention and empowerment of children. In a testimonial for Super Hero Kids, Lutz said, "This program is invaluable! Sexual assault is unfortunately very pervasive in our society. Super Hero Kids has developed an outstanding program that is age appropriate and teaches the skills necessary to avoid this. Many of my patients have taken the class. Parents are enthusiastic and appreciative. Kids can proudly tell me what they learned. I hope every child has an opportunity to take this class to learn these important skills."
Minnetonka Schools Superintendent Dr. Dennis Peterson said, "When we learned of Super Hero Kids, and what a unique and powerful training program it was proving to be, we elected to embrace it and offer it during class time in our elementary schools. We are the first public school district to do so."
"We are equipping even our youngest students with information that could prevent a tragic incident," said Curt Carpenter, principal of Clear Springs Elementary School, the first elementary school in the district to offer the training. "The grateful response from parents as we've implemented this program has just been overwhelming."
"I am so glad the school district is choosing to proactively support and teach this training to our children. It is a sensitive and difficult topic to cover, and from what I've learned, this program delivers the message in a very appropriate and engaging way that resonates with our kids," said one parent in a thank-you email to Principal Carpenter.
Another wrote, "I appreciate the forward thinking [approach] of Minnetonka Public Schools. The dedication and commitment you make to all children inside and outside of school is truly something to be proud of. We feel blessed to be a part of the Minnetonka system."
The same training organization that developed Super Hero Kids has led NOT ME! trainings at Minnetonka High School the past four years, which have been optional for graduating seniors and their parents.
"Over the years we've received many words of praise from parents and students who have attended the NOT ME! trainings," said Minnetonka High School Principal Jeff Erickson. "As we considered this year, we made the decision to incorporate a portion of that training into our health classes for seniors. Whether our graduates head off to college or step into their first careers, we think this is vital information to provide to them."
NOT ME! and Super Hero Kids programs were developed by former Navy Seal Officer Al Horner and his wife, Diane, who live in Eden Prairie. For more than 14 years, many large corporations have offered the adult trainings as part of a health benefit to their employees, and after being asked repeatedly 'What do you have for kids to keep them safe?' Al spent five years developing the Super Hero Kids program. Minnetonka Schools has been the first to embrace the program, and many other districts are now piloting classes during the school day, as well.
"The Super Hero Kids and Not Me! trainings are led by experienced instructors. We keep the sessions for younger children fun and engaging – not scary," said Heidi Nauman, parent in the district and director of the Super Hero Kids Foundation. "And at the same time, we empower children and young adults to be in control."
Learn more about Super Hero Kids
Learn more about NOT ME! training