This post discusses an incident that happens about 8 years ago when my youngest son was in his last month of high school. I begin with a letter I penned to the local paper.
On Thursday, May 18th, the members of the Bluefield High School chapter of SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving), in conjunction with the school faculty, staged a mock accident in the school parking lot.
During this exercise, a student was extracted from the vehicle by the North River Fire Department using the jaws of life. The ‘deceased’ student was removed, placed under a blanket and placed in a waiting ambulance. It was only at this time that the exercise was revealed as a piece of ‘shock art’ to the remainder of the student body.
The faculty, in its wisdom felt that by not telling the students the impact would be stronger, and the potential for saving a life was worth any emotional fallout on the students. A little research will show that in other jurisdictions, demonstrations of this nature are common, but students are aware that they are staged.
Although several of the faculty members were wandering among the student, there seemed to be no concerted effort the evaluate the emotional state of the student body. In any group of 800 individuals it is reasonable to assume that a significant proportion, perhaps as high as 10%, may be struggling with a pre-existing emotional illness. Along with these, there are an unknown number who are dealing with an unstable home life.
In my opinion, these young people were abandoned by their caregivers who apparently hadn’t considered that some students might be traumatized.
I believe that, at the very least, an apology should be issued to the student body, and to us, their parents.
The reason this hit so close to me was that my son was one of he major victims. It was his girlfriend at the time who was the student pried from the wreck. His first knowledge of the incident was when some of his friends burst into the art room and told him she had been in an accident in the parking lot. At the time, he was being treated for depression, and when I returned home from work, my other son informed me what had happened and that son # 2 had disappeared. I spent the next hour or so frantically phoning his friends until I finally found him, physically safe and sound, but emotionally devastated.
I subsequently met separately with the school principle and the School board Superintendent and both insisted that the school had acted appropriately. I also found out that some of the students walked out of class in protest and received approximately the same reaction, in fact they were informed that the school would feel quite comfortable in creating a similar mock accident in the future. There were a few other letters and editorials in the newspaper as well, so I do not wish to claim that I was a lone voice in the wilderness. In fact, the only support came from those inside the system.
For my efforts on behalf of the students the faculty (with one exception) refused to speak to me for the rest of the semester. It is important to note that I feared repercussions towards my son, and only stood up because it was his last month in school. However, among others it was a different story. I was approached by a parent who told me her daughter had been a passenger in a fatal accident the year before and was just barely able to complete her last few weeks of school. many other parents and friends of my son were quick to praise me for my public stance. Many of the mental health professionals I have encountered over the past number of years also expressed outrage at what the school had done.
No acknowledgement was ever made by the faculty or school board that anything wrong had been done, but at least, there have been no surprise mock accidents since then.
Bullying and abuse are serious problems in our schools, but it is important to remember that not all of the abuse comes from peers.