Friday, May 05, 2006

My head... head, Oh, my aching head.

Meeting from 6 pm last night until 12 fucking thirty.

NOT a happy camper this morning. (Up at 6 am to get my adorable children, all sleep-tumbled and droopy, off to school complete with a fresh-faced attitude and a belly full of nutritious breakfast. Ugh.)

Had to sit through a report detailing a program which I fundamentally DO NOT agree with. And it has such widespread community involvement, that it's fairly ridiculous to start tilting at windmills to remove it from the High School. It's an anti-drunk-driving campaign, which on the face of it seems like an appropriate thing.

Except, it simulates the deaths of High School students by setting aside one day a year where student volunteers are pulled out of class (at 15 minute intervals) and then return to class wearing white face to show that they have died. A car crash is staged on the football field, the fire and rescue comes to pry the High School actors out of the car, one is heli-vacced to a hospital. For every child that dies throughout the day, the parents are notified at work. The child who was driving the car on the football field is "arrested" and spends the day in jail. His parents are notified.

The children go on an overnight retreat where they pledge not to drink and drive. They write a letter to their parents, saying goodbye from beyond the grave. Meanwhile the parents meet with "members of our faith community" to draft obituaries for their students.

The next morning there is an all-school assembly where the parents read the obits and then are reunited with their child. The volunteers share their experiences from the overnight retreat.

My issues:

Too dramatic. We already have cutters at the school. I'm waiting for the Tom Sawyer, I'm attending my own funeral and now I know how much everyone will miss me when I'm gone, part of this to kick in for a suicidal teen. It seems to glamorize death and gore.

A waste of educational time. Not much more I can add to this

A mis-direction of focus. The families who participate have already signed on as volunteers. These kids are the Student Body Presidents, the Cheerleaders, the Club Presidents. I don't think the disaffected kids who are spending the majority of their time hating school, hating life, are going to give two hoots about how emotionally heart-rending the experience was for a cheerleader. I know I wouldn't have cared when I was in school.

A mis-direction of resources. Fire Dept, Police, Faith community, City Staff, School Staff, Local Hospitals, the Heli-vac company all adore this program. A video is produced every year detailing the crash and the "impact" the program has had on the school. I'd much rather get those guys to help us get a real drug counseling program in the school, led by recovering addicts, which allows the kids to explore *why* they are self-medicating. But it's not flashy, sitting around in a room, is it.

Insertion of school into family dynamics. Sometimes this is appropriate--especially with High School-aged, almost adult students. HOWEVER. The overnight retreat deeply bothers me. Student's cell phones are confiscated, since they are dead and unable to communicate with the outside world. They are chaperoned and not allowed to use hotel phones. Then they are encouraged to talk about death and about drug use. Every year one of the parent volunteers talks about how resistant the students were to the process, but after "hours of discussion" the students suddenly became much more emotional and open. At this point they write their letters from beyond the grave to the parents. I've been in "Group-Think" situations like this before. Makes my skin crawl. If I question this, the response I get is, "The kids volunteered to take part."

The whole thing makes me nuts. And I squirm every year I hear a report about it. I should stand up and fight against it, demonstrate how harmful it is. But I'm definitely not representative of the community on this one. People lap it up.

Link: Every 15 Mintues program

Edited to add: There's very little evidence that _any_ of the popular programs work to stop drug use. This is the best study relative to "Project DARE." But hard evidence does not sway either the police or the school administration to stop a program. Believe me on this. It takes a full-scale community uprising to drag these programs out once they're installed.


Megan Frampton said...

That is SO CREEPY! I would DEFINITELY be against it, too.

I was up until 12:30 also. SO, SO TIRED today.

Fickle Fiona said...


I'm in shock that there is an entire community out there in favor of this.

Sounds pretty morbid.


Suisan said...

Megan: It IS creepy. Part of the video presentation from last night not only had the patient dying at the hospital, but also included the mortician transporting the "body" in a hearse, processing their personal effects at the morgue, and then, shudder, sliding the "body" onto a slab in the cooler. Shot of the mortician closing the cooler door. Ew. How does this affect anybody OTHER than the one child who gets transported in the hearse? Yuckers.

Fiona: You have no idea.

"You see, kids today are immersed in gore and blood. The only way to get through to them is to really bring home death in a graphic way, to take it out of the video game realm." This program gained widespread acceptance and adulation *after* a senior was killed in a drunk driving accident. Because that wasn't real enough. A real death. We had to re-enact it on the football field, yearly, for the kids to really absorb it.

The cops, oh good grief, the cops Lurrrve this program. The chief practically wets himself when he talks about all the preparations needed to "pull off" the accident.

meljean brook said...

Agreed -- creepy and unnecessary. I've never heard of anything like this.

And the group-think would also make my skin crawl. Gah.

Bev (BB) said...

"You see, kids today are immersed in gore and blood. The only way to get through to them is to really bring home death in a graphic way, to take it out of the video game realm."

But you know, that's only true for the ones participating, not for the ones watching, so I'm not sure how valid it is as a reasoning.

I'd never heard of such a thing when I read your rant and we live in a community that will try everything once, Suisan, so I asked the ex about it, who has been involved in anti-drug programs in our county, and he just shook his head. Not so much disbelief as disgust, I think. His summation? It's just another reality program . . .

You might want to gently and quietly ask around. More parents than you think may be wondering about its potential benefits and drawbacks.

Suisan said...

I know some parents simply pull their kids out of school on the Every 15 Minutes days. Or at least I hear that they do. I can start sniffing around.

And, eh, the more I get involved in schools, the more shocked I am at what programs are endorsed by the schools in the name of doing good works "for the children."

(Note: whenever one utters the phrase "it's for the chldren," it is preferred that one place one's hand on one's collarbones, close one's eyes, and lift one's head slightly while sniffing to hold back tears. Actually it's not preferred, it's mandatory.)

Bev (BB) said...

You might also be surprised if you did some digging for numbers. Like, have drunk driving related accidents actually decreased since the program was started? Or what other systems use the same program and what do their numbers show?

Suisan said...

Well, hard facts never prevented the DARE program from being adopted all over this country, even though public heath studies have demonstrated that it has no effect. Schools and police love DARE and DARE graduations.

Anti-drug discussions, like condom distribution or sex education discussions tend not to be all that rational.

Doesn't mean I'll give up on it--just that it's not as clear-cut as you might think going in. (I've experienced asking a question of the Superintendent and then having people break down in tears during public comment because I didn't support everything this "wonderful woman" was doing for the schools.) Sometimes people, and parents, are just idiots.

CindyS said...

Geez Louise!! How much does this whole thing cost? It sounds like a horrible waste of money and *I* was one of those kids who wouldn't have given a fig about what the popular kids were doing.

Do you guys get the MADD (mother's against drunk driving) commercials down there? Those put a chill through me and I think are much more effective to the viewer.

Also, when we were in school we had people who's lives were changed by accidents. I remember one woman who was just starting her modeling career and ended up getting hit by a drunk driver. She was paralyzed and had damage to her face. It was very powerful to listen to someone who's life took a real change.

The thing about the kids who volunteer - they come back to class the next day and who knows what they say about the whole thing. 'Yeah, it was lame and my parents were all mushy and stuff but I got out of trig'.


sybil said...

that is the stupidest thing in the whole world

I wouldn't have gone to school that day. My mother wouldn't let my lil sis go. That is just wrong on so many levels.

And as a person who worked in hotels for over six years and am now back doing it... DON'T let your children go AWAY without you. I don't care how well they are or say they are chaperoned. Unless you are one of them.


Hell we recently had middle school kids where three rooms ended up without any parents (if it had been my call I wouldn't have let the rooms be checked in) so there were four 12 year olds alone. In three rooms. Bet you money their parents didn't know.

That whole program sounds like nothing more than a waste of money and a way for parents to feel good about themselves. And I use the word parent lightly. Makes me want to sing songs from South Park the movie.

Pat Kirby said...

Meh. Sounds more nonsense from the the Oprah-esque, Lifetime TV, overwrought mindset. Let's work up a tear-jerker program that makes us, the adults feel all fuzzy and mopey, an foist it on the kids, expecting the non-experience to "change their lifes." Ugh.

Can't just sit down and have an honest discussion with out kids, nope, nope, nope. Nope. Instead let's pass it off on some asinine program under the auspices of scaring them straight.

I suspect it's about as effective as Abstainence Only one ear and out the other.

I wouldn't let my kids participate...heh, my fictional kids. But seriously, that sort of thing isn't the school's job to teach, it's mine.