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  Commentary June 19th, 2008

The Editor 

by lyle e davis

What Was El Camino High School in Oceanside Thinking?

One of the responsibilities teachers and school administrators are charged with teaching their students is the exercise of good judgment and common sense.

It is in that specific areas we think the school board, administrators and teachers that handle programs for El Camino High School should not only get a failing grade but should be put on detention for their actions last month where students were told that some of their close friends died. Later, the studens were told it was all a hoax. We think this was, and is, outrageous!

To a lesser extent, we think the California Highway Patrol should also get a rap on the knuckles. This was just plain loopy. Common sense and judgment were not displayed. CHP officers visited 20 classrooms at the 3100-student El Camino High School to announce that several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.

Classmates wept. Some became hysterical. Later, that grief and sorrow would turn to fury when they learned they had been lied to by people they should be able to trust: their teachers and members of law enforcement. At school assemblies, some students held up posters that read: "Death is real. Don't play with our emotions."

This was supposed to be an extension, a variation, on a highly successful program known as the “Every 15 Minute” program. However, in the traditional program a uniformed officer goes into the class and announces the death of the student. Usually the student was then removed from the class. A biography/obituary was then read about the student. The other students clearly understand that this is a dramatization . . . but the point is still made.

Later, police, fire, ambulance and helicopter personnel all combine at the accident “scene,” usually at a high school field. A number of students are made up to appear either dead or dying. It’s very realistic. Very effective.

And it was working.

Paula Todd, public relations director for the CHP said that it was the school’s choice to do the program the way they did. CHP has a general outline of the program but schools can make deviations. She said they had done this program for eight years, 805 classes. They have never experienced the negative response they’ve received on this incident.

If asked to do it again, she said the CHP would facilitate the program as they have it in their program guide but any deviation from the original plan would be forwarded to CHP headquarters for approval.

If that procedure was followed this year, we don’t quite understand how or why the CHP would approve of this methodology.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

There was no rhyme or reason for the Oceanside school board, its Superintendent, Larry Perondi, the guidance counselor, Lori Tauber, or the teachers to participate in this outrageous event. Well intentioned, perhaps, but outrageous. Perondi said the program would be revised, but he would not say how.

We think the El Camino High School students were deceived by the very people they should trust the most. A number of teachers have privately expressed their frustration at this series of events as they feel a bond of trust between student and teacher was needlessly broken; and a bond that may take years to mend.

Bad form. Bad idea. Bad judgment. Learn from it. Go back to the original plan. It’s a great program, has proven that it works, and the message gets across to the kids without resorting to lying.

 

 

 

 


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