Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Every 15 Minutes Controversy

First, the set up.  Here is a short explanation of the anti-drinking program "Every 15 Minutes”.

During the first day events the "Grim Reaper" calls students who have been selected from a cross-section of the entire student body out of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes. A police officer will immediately enter the classroom to read an obituary which has been written by the "dead" student's parent(s) - explaining the circumstances of their classmate's demise and the contributions the student has made to the school and the community. A few minutes later, the student will return to class as the "living dead," complete with white face make-up, a coroner's tag, and a black Every 15 Minutes T-shirt. From that point on "victims" will not speak or interact with other students for the remainder of the school day. Simultaneously, uniformed officers will make mock death notifications to the parents of these children at their home, place of employment or business.

After lunch, a simulated traffic collision will be viewable on the school grounds. Rescue workers will treat injured student participants. These students will experience first hand, the sensations of being involved in a tragic, alcohol-related and texting while driving collision. The coroner will handle fatalities on the scene, while the injured students will be extricated by the jaws-of-life manned by Fire-Fighters and Paramedics. Police Officers will investigate, arrest, and book the student "drunk driver". Student participants will continue their experience by an actual trip to the morgue, the hospital emergency room, and to the police department jail for the purpose of being booked for "drunk driving".

At the end of the day, those students who participated in the staged accident as well as those who were made-up as the "living dead" will be transported to a local hotel for an overnight student retreat. The retreat will simulate the separation from friends and family. A support staff of counselors and police officers will facilitate the retreat.
During the most powerful program of the retreat, the students will be taken through an audio - visualization of their own death. Then each student will write a letter to his or her parents starting out with . . .

"Dear Mom and Dad, every fifteen minutes someone in the United States dies from an alcohol related traffic collision, and today I died. I never had the chance to tell you......."

Parents will also be asked to write similar letters to their children. These letters will be shared the following day when students and parents will be reunited at a school assembly.

Research shows that those who learn from hands-on experience retain two to four times more than those who learn from just listening, or from listening and seeing.
"Grim Reaper" and the staged crash. The assembly will be hosted by an Officer (Project Coordinator), who will guide the audience through the devastating effects of losing a loved one due to a bad choice. Speakers will include students who will read letters to their parents, police officers, and hospital personnel who shared their emotional trauma of dealing with kids killed in traffic crashes. Parents will share their personal reflections of their involvement in this program. We will also have a powerful speaker who actually lost a child to a drunk driver, or as the result of driving while under the influence or texting while driving.

The whole process can take upwards of three days.  The emotional trauma that some kids face pretty much kills most instruction for those three days.

Now, before everyone goes nuclear, I’m not saying this isn’t a valuable program.  The quote “even if we save only one life” is valid enough.  However in the era of Program Improvement and the heavy focus on testing, I think the relevant question needs to be asked about costs and benefits.  Oh, and about this time you might be accusing me of being to narrow minded about education and testing.  Go blame the rest of society.  They seem to enjoy that crap.

So I’m looking for feedback on Every 15 Minutes.  I’m looking to find teacher opinions about whether or not the “scared straight” method is truly effective with kids, and is the disruption to the entire educational process worth it? 

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