Media Archive

SAD 41, Masons fight child abductions

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 33, August 13, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

MILO It could never happen to me. Or to my child.

That thought flashes through the mind of all parents when news of a child abduction is reported anywhere across the nation.

But it does happen. And, more frequently than some might think.

According to recent statistics,725,000 children are reported missing or abducted every year across the nation. That translates to at least one report every single minute.

That's why the SAD 41 board is taking steps to work with the Maine Masons to offer a child identification program to all of its students, grades K-12.

The Maine Masonic ChIPs (child identification program) offers a package to parents that includes a three to four minute videotaping of each child, fingerprinting and a swabbing of the mouth to retain a DNA sample. The program also has offered a dental imprint in other regions.

"We've given the go-ahead to pursue it," said SAD 41 Board Chairman Jeffrey Hamlin, after a unanimous vote.

The decision came after a short presentation to the board at the Aug. 6 meeting by Claire Tusch, deputy grand master of the Maine Masons, who drove to Milo from Wells.

Tusch said that the Maine Masons decided to offer the program free to Maine families, due to its success in Massachusetts and nationwide.

Hamlin said that the district is moving to offer the program this school year. He said it is important to note that this is a voluntary program, which requires written permission from the child's guardian, and the package is sent home with the child upon completion.

"In other words, there's no 'Big Brother,' here," said Tusch.

Superintendent David Walker suggested that local parent-teacher organizations, the Penquis Valley High School Key Club, and other community members may want to get involved and volunteer.

Hamlin said he would like to see the district provide a ChIPs package to the parents of all students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Tusch, the representative from the masons, said that the program has been successful in Massachusetts and across the nation in helping tolocate missing and abducted children. He noted that a videotape of Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped a year ago from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah, was key to her recovery last March.

Tusch said that videotaping, as opposed to photographs, can provide a clearer picture of a child's personality, as well as enable the creation of age-progression images. He said key questions are asked in the short interview, such as "Where do you go after school?" and "What is your favorite place to hide?" The interview also calls for the youngster to put on their biggest smile for the camera, he said, adding that smiles are as unique as fingerprints.

Tusch said that the fingerprinting and swabbing of the mouth for DNA also can provide investigators with crucial information. He said children are nowadays urged to spit everywhere they can if they are facing an abduction as saliva contains a unique scent that can be tracked by dogs. The swabs are used to contain that scent, as well as to provide DNA if needed, and can keep for up to two years, he said.

A dental imprint also is as unique to each individual as fingerprints, Tusch said.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.