You see your children’s classmates walking to school on a chilly morning. Maybe they are running late. You offer them a ride.

Don’t do it, Janesville police say. Especially after what happened Monday morning.

Four girls walking to Van Buren Elementary School on the city’s south side saw a man in an SUV call to them. He asked if they wanted a ride.

The girls, ages kindergarten through fifth grade, ran to a nearby crossing guard, who called the school, and the girls later reported the incident to school authorities, police Sgt. Aaron Ellis said.

That led to a police alert, asking for help identifying the man. Police didn’t say it in the alert, but the implication was that the man might have intended harm.

He didn’t intend any harm, and it was an honest mistake, police now believe, Ellis said. But the parent made a poor decision.

“In today’s day and age, you can’t just offer. It’s not going to work,” Ellis said Monday, after the man saw the police alert and told police he was the guy.

“This was just unnecessary, and that frightened the girls, and he’s acknowledged it now,” Ellis said.

A good alternative would have been to call their parents and tell them you saw their kids running late, Ellis suggested.

Ellis said the girls’ behavior was exemplary.

“These kids did a fantastic job, doing exactly what they should do. They didn’t recognize the person. They ran to a trusted adult, which is a crossing guard they pass each day,” Ellis said.

Both officers investigating the incident were “shocked” at how accurate the girls’ descriptions were of the man and his car, Ellis said.

“We don’t get that sort of accuracy from most witnesses that we got from four young girls,” he said.

The crossing guard also did the right thing: She didn’t panic, and she stayed at her post in case the suspicious man in the car returned, Ellis said.

“Everybody did exactly what we’d want them to do,” he said. “Great job by all.”

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