Tomorrow and Wednesday, my school will be participating in the Every 15 Minutes program. If you don't know what that is, here's a synopsis from a post I wrote years ago:
Genuine car accident cars are brought out to the field, and the whole school goes out to watch as actual emergency response personnel act out the scenario of a drunk driving accident. Pre-trained students are also involved, and have make-up on to simulate the wounds of the accident. The "drunk driver" is checked out by the police as the firemen use the jaws of life on the car to get a student out. A lifeflight helicopter transports the "wounded" student to the hospital, where they are pronounced dead and taken to the actual morgue. Throughout the rest of the day, pre-chosen students are pulled out of class by the Grim Reaper (in the past, it was our principal in the garb) every 15 minutes--they are taken to a site where they discuss the program, write "good-bye" letters to their families as if they had really died, etc. All of this is filmed, of course, and the next day at the Every 15 Minutes Rally the whole school watches the video and the students involved, along with their parents, talk about what it was like to simulate this tragedy.This year we're upping the ante. We're keeping the program a secret. We're just going to spring this on our students, the goal being to go for "maximum effect". To me, that means we're going to try to get maximum emotional trauma out of our students. We want them to cry! We want them to be scared! We want them freaking out! And that's the whole student body!
To me it's emotional abuse. If there were any evidence at all that the program saved lives, perhaps I'd be more inclined to support it, but there is none. Not one piece. To toy with the emotions of teenagers for no measurable benefit, and to take two school days to do so--well, I've already said I find it manipulative and abusive.
And there will be no permission slips from parents, no excusals, nothing. All students will attend. But hey, we have chaplains and counselors and maybe even comfort dogs and coloring books at the ready if some kids lose their cool at our required, hope-you-get-traumatized event.
What's really sick is that the pre-chosen students and their parents will write letters to each other. We have a woman at school who actually lost her son (in Afghanistan), and in the back of my mind every day is the fact that my son could very well go to that same godforsaken place within a year. If the thought of my son's death crosses my mind, it's very real to me and I hide that thought in some deep, dark place in my mind and turn to something else. I can't imagine what kind of parent can pretend their child is dead without losing their mind. To me it's sick--but they're going to do it. And then they're going to write letters to their "dead" children. And some of these letters will be read in front of the entire student body at Wednesday's mandatory gathering. Maximum emotional trauma.
Some people really don't like it when I bring up these objections. There is to be no disagreement, we do it, do it their way, and that's final. I'd welcome the opportunity to have a study hall in my classroom for kids who don't want to attend or for kids whose parents don't want them to attend, but no one is being given that option. Remember, it's all being kept a secret, we're just going to spring this on the students tomorrow.
This is public education.