Diocese of Sioux City promulgates safe environment program in Catholic schools

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, I am firmly committed to the safety of all people, especially children and the vulnerable, who participate in our parish, school, and diocesan programs. The current Safe Environment Program employed in our diocese is well-designed and working well to meet that goal. This program helps to ensure that all children and young people are kept safe. Our safe environment policies and practices have focused on educating parents, teachers, clergy, and all volunteers who work with children about the dangers of child predators, how to be aware of the behaviors exhibited by those who intend to victimize children, and how to report such behavior.

We recognize, in addition, that the prevention of child sexual abuse requires more than adult awareness, education, and training about the nature and scope of the problem. We must also give our children the tools they need to overcome the advances of someone who intends to do them harm. The newly-available Teaching Touching Safety curriculum is a tool designed to assist parents, teachers, catechists, youth ministers, and volunteers in this important task.

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued guidelines for training programs in Catholic schools in order to ensure that children are given the tools they need to keep themselves safe. The Teaching Touching Safety curriculum, produced by the Virtus Company, through the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, meets these guidelines.

By this letter, I hereby promulgate the Teaching Touching Safety curriculum, for the training of children in the schools and parishes of the Diocese of Sioux City.

Please join me in our ongoing efforts to ensure that all vulnerable people who come to Christ in our parishes, schools, and diocesan programs do so in a safe, holy, and respectful environment.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, our most merciful king, grant us his grace and peace, and increase our obedience and fidelity!

 Your brother in Christ,

 The Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless

Bishop of Sioux City


‘Teaching Touching Safety’ curriculum offered in schools

Bishop R. Walker Nickless has written a letter of promulgation for the new “Teaching Touching Safety” curriculum, to be implemented in the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City. Following guidelines set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the new curriculum teaches students from kindergarten through 12th grade how to recognize adults who may be trying to victimize them.

“This curriculum brings our safe environment training programs into full circle” said Colleen Sulsberger, director of safe environment for the diocese. “Since 2003, we have been training our clergy, parents, employees, and all those volunteers who work with kids on how to recognize the behaviors – or warning signs – that an abuser might display.  Now, we can also teach our children how to know who is a safe adult, and who may be trying to victimize them.”

The “Teaching Touching Safety” program was developed by the Virtus company, the same company who produces the “Protecting God’s Children” program for adults. The curriculum meets guidelines set forth by the National Review Board, a group of lay persons who advise the USCCB on matters involving safe environment issues. These guidelines specify that safe environment training programs for children must be research-based as well as age and developmentally appropriate, and must include active, systematic, and specific skills training, modeling best practices of how to respond to potential abusers and uncomfortable situations.

Other areas covered in the curriculum include how to be safe in the internet and when using social media, how to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch, and how to develop skills and language to say no to someone who is making them uncomfortable.

A complete guide to the curriculum is available on the Diocese of Sioux City home page.  This guide includes previews of the lessons at each grade level that will be taught in Catholic schools, as well as activities and discussion guides for parents and students to complete together.

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