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Saving Kids from Bullies and Strangers; Deputy Ethan D. Darion '07
Photo courtesy of Berks County Sheriff's Department
Ethan D. Darion '07 remembers being picked on when he was an elementary-school student in Kutztown, Pa. He remembers the kid who picked on him in art class, and he remembers the one who stuck gum in his hair. Today, he's happy to have had those experiences, because they help him deliver his message to children through his program Helping Everyone Respect Others, or H.E.R.O.
A deputy sheriff with the Berks County Sheriff's Department, Darion developed the program just over 10 years ago when he was a police officer in Centre Township and Wernersville and a karate instructor at Can Do Karate in Temple, Pa. He also developed a program called Stranger Danger, which teaches children what to do if confronted by someone they don't know.
Both programs were put on hiatus as Darion completed his crime and justice degree at Albright in the Accelerated Degree Completion Program and worked at the College as a police officer from 2005 to 2007. They were updated and resurrected after he became a deputy sheriff.
Now, when talking to school-age children about what bullying is, Darion incorporates clips from movies such as Toy Story and Despicable Me. He uses movies like Transformers II to illustrate how to stop being bullied, and he tells his own personal stories.
While the movie scenes aren't real life, "They get the point across and keep the kids entertained at the same time," Darion notes. Most importantly, "I explain that the ultimate bully buster is confidence. I tell them that they should get involved in something, whether it's checkers or karate, to find a way to acquire self-confidence."
Darion's own story of how he overcame the bully in art class resonates with participants. "One day he needed a tool I had, so I gave it to him," Darion says. "After I did that he stopped bullying me. We were never really friends, but he stopped." Since early 2011, Darion has received requests from 10 schools in Berks County, particularly for the H.E.R.O. program. "There's a big push to do something about bullying in schools. Kids are killing themselves over this and the schools are being sued," he says.
"Bullying, like the war on drugs, will never end," Darion notes, "but by fighting and learning how to prevent bullying we can lessen the victim count."
Stranger Danger, on the other hand, really can save someone's life. The video that Darion produced and directed shows various ways strangers try to deceive children. It engages viewers by asking children what they should do in different scenarios. "The first question I ask the kids is, 'Who has spoken to their parents about strangers before?' You would be amazed at how many do not raise their hand," he says.
From working in Reading's central booking office, Darion knows that awareness does save lives. He personally booked a suspect who was caught stalking a child because the child took a picture of the suspect with her cell phone and turned it into police.
"If a child is exposed to a stranger and does what they learned with me and doesn't get kidnapped," Darion says, "then it was all worth it."
–Jennifer Post Stoudt