Parents reach out to advocates to talk about Amber Alert situati - WSMV News 4

Parents reach out to advocates to talk about Amber Alert situation

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Tad Cummins (Source: TBI) Tad Cummins (Source: TBI)
Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas (Source: TBI) Mary Catherine Elizabeth Thomas (Source: TBI)

It's day 11 in the search for missing 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and her former teacher Tad Cummins.

Some parents may be wondering how to talk to their kids about Cummins' alleged behavior toward Thomas.

Cummins is wanted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

Kim Janecek, the prevention education curriculum manager with the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, said parents are calling her with questions. Many want to know how to talk about the Amber Alert with their children.

"Ask the kids, 'What do you think about that?' and say that's not OK to have that type of relationship with your teacher," Janecek said.

She said it's important to lay out what boundaries are and when they can be crossed.

"They have to explain what are the differences between safe touches and unsafe touches, and explain what are healthy relationships and model that at home," Janecek said.

The Sexual Assault Center offers free classes on those basics to all Tennessee public elementary schools through the Be Safe curriculum. Channel 4 asked Janecek to look up some Midstate counties and found not every one takes advantage of it.

"A lot of principals and other administration may not find this topic important, and school counselors may not find this topic important," she said.

In Maury County, only three schools have that curriculum. There's also high school program for a cost, and Culleoka Unit School where Cummins taught does not use it.

TBI investigators said they believe Cummins may have abused his role as a teacher to lure and possibly sexually exploit Thomas. Those are possible signs children can learn to spot.

 "We want our kids to be able to be informed and know if someone is doing something inappropriate they can speak up about it," Janecek said.

Janecek said parents can ask their school counselors or school board if they teach the Be Safe curriculum for public schools, and then ask who they can contact if they want the classes.

In Davidson County, Metro Nashville Public Schools' 57 elementary schools have the Be Safe curriculum; five schools use it in both Rutherford and Dickson county schools, and Williamson County Schools has 38 schools. Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools has 12 schools that use the curriculum, Wilson County Schools has six schools, and Sumner County Schools has 12 schools that use it. In Cheatham County, four schools use it, Marshall County schools has one elementary school that teaches the class.

Be Empowered is the program for middle and high school students, and the Sexual Assault Center requires schools to pay $150 for that curriculum. According to Janecek, only 63 schools across Tennessee teach Be Empowered classes, including private schools. Of the 63 schools, about 38 of MNPS's middle and high schools have the program.

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