Tricking teens into thinking their friends had been killed by a drunk driver was justified, say teachers at a San Diego County high school.
On a Monday morning last month, California Highway Patrol officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to announce some horrible news: Students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.
Classmates wept. Some became hysterical.
A few hours and many tears later, though, the pain turned to fury when the teenagers learned that it was all a hoax — a scared-straight exercise designed by school officials, with several dozen students’ participation, to dramatize the consequences of drinking and driving.
. . . At assemblies where speakers talked about the dangers of drunken driving, some students held posters that read: “Death is real. Don’t play with our emotions.”
The school had modified a program called Every 15 Minutes. (Contrary to what I wrote here, this was not created by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.) Normally, the undead are pulled out of class by someone in a Grim Reaper costume while their obituaries are read aloud. Everyone knows it’s not real.
El Camino High students who were in on the plan thought the Grim Reaper skit was too hokey, too Halloween. Administrators and teachers agreed to the hoax.
“They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized,” said guidance counselor Lori Tauber. “That’s how they get the message.”
Yes, but the message is not to trust authority figures.
Sadly, even real deaths don’t have a long-term effect. In Los Gatos, an affluent suburb of San Jose, a teen-ager was killed in 2003 riding with a drunken driver. Classmates were shocked — but underage drinking remains a problem.