DBS students have been urged not to walk alone or keep quiet when they sense danger. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/XPRESS

Dubai: A British school in Dubai has sought police help and alerted parents following reports of students being approached by strangers in a white SUV.

The Dubai British School (DBS) in The Springs/Emirates Hills is also holding special assemblies apprising students of ‘Stranger Danger'. They are urged to walk in groups and "yell and run" when confronted by a stranger.

Primary students have been recommended a book called Car Trouble, while plans are afoot to issue ID cards to parents after Christmas.

Close encounters

In the past few days several students here have had close shaves with a group of strangers comprising Arab men and a woman possibly of eastern European origin.

DBS Principal Mark Ford has described the sequel of incidents and the steps taken by the school in a series of e-mails to parents. One such e-mail sent by Ford on December 5 reads:

  • 1. A female secondary school student was walking home (October 25) from school — towards Meadows 5 — when a white jeep stopped and the men — of local origin according to the student — tried to talk with her. Our Running Club was passing and the vehicle moved on. Her parents contacted the police.
  • 2. A female secondary student was walking into Meadows 6 (November 19) after school. A white pick-up truck with several men followed her, stopped and asked her if she wanted a lift. The student walked back to the security and called the police. She gave the police the number plate details but the truck has not yet been traced.
  • 3. A female secondary school student was approached near Spinneys by a man in a white jeep-type car who asked her if she wanted a lift.
  • 4. Early afternoon in the Town Centre (November 27) a primary student was waiting for his mother outside the ladies toilets. He was approached by a woman — of Caucasian origin according to the student — who asked him if he wished to get into the car with her as she had two small children in there who wanted to play with him. He was scared and alerted his mother by shouting. The mother reported the incident to school.

We have met with Emaar and they are checking CCTV footage to see if this provides us with any further information.

We have also talked with CID and the police who are increasing their presence in the area. In school, we are reminding children of stranger danger. Please also reinforce these important messages with your children.

Talking to XPRESS, Ford said they have apprised Emaar about the issue and the developer has assured them of intensifying patrols and increasing CCTV coverage in the area.

An Emaar Properties spokesperson said: "We take such reports seriously. Parents and residents are always cautioned to monitor their children at all times and should report any suspicious activity to Dubai Police. Confidential information may also be provided to the Al Ameen service provided by Dubai Police."

"We are in touch with the CID and Dubai Police who are increasing their presence in the area," Ford said. Strict security measures have been put in place for parents and visitors. "I realise this may have caused some inconvenience to parents and visitors, but we need to tighten up security measures. With this in mind we are in the process of producing ID cards for all parents and will be distributing them after Christmas," Ford said.

Stranger danger

Stephen Hockley, father of a nine-year-old girl at DBS, said, "The school has been holding assemblies on ‘Stranger Danger'. We are aware of the incidents and are vigilant. I have told my child never to get into a stranger's car." Amy Crawly, mother of a secondary student at DBS, said she has heard of SUV-borne men approaching teens, mostly girls.

Peter Moore, Primary Head Teacher at DBS, said, "We have told children to walk in groups wherever possible. And it's perfectly OK to shout and even scream as loud as they can if a stranger scares them..."

"Strangers don't always conform to a stereotype look as children might expect. While the UAE is a safe place to live in, we mustn't be complacent when it comes to children's safety. We have assemblies and teachers reinforce the messages in the classroom during the day but we remind parents to speak to the children and reinforce the messages we give them at school," Moore said, adding, "Don't terrify them, but surely make them sensitive to take the matter seriously so that if anything happens, all the things they've been told must kick into action. So definitely yell, run and tell. We have had a good practice of yelling at school so the children know they can all do that!"

Dubai British School has over 1,050 students and offers International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), GCSE and A level courses from Foundation to Year 13 (K-12).