An event to bring awareness to internet and personal safety for young students was held at Butterfield Trail Middle School in Van Buren on Oct. 27.
This year’s event - Play It Safe - was organized a bit differently from previous years when the main event was an awareness walk, said Butterfield counselor Megan Reese, who organized the event with teacher Brandy Mosby.
“Since current seventh and eighth graders participated in the event last May, we wanted to change some of the presentations, while still preserving our message of personal and internet safety and awareness,” Reese said.
Play It Safe events started with a school-wide assembly with Bikers Against Child Abuse. Students then rotated to different sections of the campus to participate in three separate presentations.
Van Buren Police Department Detective Jonathan Wear gave a presentation on internet safety in the auditorium.
Miss Crawford County Teen Katelyn King, a BTMS student, partnered with Into the Light - an organization that supports survivors of sexual exploitation - to speak about how to prevent human trafficking.
“We were super excited about having one of our students speak about human trafficking, especially since this age group and this area of the country are some of the most targeted demographics,” Reese said.
Brandon Natzke, the third speaker, shared his story of losing a parent to domestic violence and gave tips on how to find and speak to a trusted adult. His mother, Dawna Natzke, was a Silent Witness from the first years of the awareness event.
Included in those events were “silent witnesses” - silhouette cut-outs of fatal victims of domestic abuse, with the victim’s description and story.
Van Buren School District’s first awareness events about domestic violence and sexual abuse were inspired by the story of Angela Allen, a Butterfield student who was murdered in 2012 by a sex offender who groomed her through social media.
Before the Play It Safe event, BTMS held viewings of a documentary on Allen’s murder made by the Investigation Discovery network. School counselors were on hand to answer questions and help students process the video, Reese said.
Awareness events such as Play It Safe are important, Reese said, because of “the overwhelming acts of violence that have plagued our community in the past few years.”
“This is a fun way to help introduce a hard subject to discuss, show support and educate our students and the community,” Reese said.