Your classmate has died—but not really

I've previously noted a few cases where extreme shock tactics were used to teach a lesson. (See Fake Attack at Elementary School and Fake Terrorism Drill.) The following case isn't as bad as those earlier examples, but it still comes across as creepy for officials to trick students into believing their classmate had died in order to teach a lesson about drunk driving. From

Many juniors and seniors were driven to tears – a few to near hysterics – May 26 when a uniformed police officer arrived in several classrooms to notify them that a fellow student had been killed in a drunken-driving accident. The officer read a brief eulogy, placed a rose on the deceased student's seat, then left the class members to process their thoughts and emotions for the next hour.
The program, titled “Every 15 Minutes,” was designed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Its title refers to the frequency in which a person somewhere in the country dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident.
About 10 a.m., students were called to the athletic stadium, where they learned that their classmates had not died. There, a group of seniors, police officers and firefighters staged a startlingly realistic alcohol-induced fatal car crash. The students who had purportedly died portrayed ghostly apparitions encircling the scene.

Death Law/Police/Crime

Posted on Wed Jun 04, 2008


Well, I guess you do what works.
Posted by Phil  on  Wed Jun 04, 2008  at  03:47 PM
I think I just heard a lawsuit being filed...
Posted by Christopher  on  Wed Jun 04, 2008  at  04:54 PM
I'm a high school student. Last year we had two students die from drunk driving. They were out at four in the morning, had been drunk, then hit a tree. It is a serious problem. I think "scare-tactics" are useful, but maybe not to that extreme. I remember when I took driver's ed they made us watch a video. It showed a high school that had set up a car crash and had student actors in it, much like this instance here. However, no one was told that someone had died before the demonstration.
Posted by Jackie  on  Wed Jun 04, 2008  at  05:35 PM
Why make someone feel someone actually died? Why not emphized the ones who do die?
Posted by I am an ex associate  on  Wed Jun 04, 2008  at  07:10 PM
because in past thats not really worked too well? i guess staging deaths make it all the more sudden
Posted by JoOdd  on  Wed Jun 04, 2008  at  08:22 PM
This would have really pissed me off, to be lied to and manipulated like that by teachers and parents of all people. As I remember, when I was a teenager, if someone annoyed me when telling me not to do something, I'd go and do it anyway. So I'm guessing more than a few of those annoyed students went out and got drunk that night.
Posted by Nona  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  05:43 AM
Isn't this really a waste of resources and time? The purpose of a police force is to investigate criminal acts.
It sounds like this community must be the safest on the planet if the cops have time to go to schools and scare the bejeesus out of the kids.
Posted by KDP  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  08:41 AM
This is very interesting but not as uncommon as you might think. While I was in college I worked for a sound company that had a gig to setup a PA system for a presentation at the local high school. It turns out that every year the high school arranges for just this kind of demonstration. It's extremely effective! They use real students and professional make-up artists to replicate the scene and run through it from the begining with explaining what happened and why. So kids think it's funny or dumb but it definitely sticks with them. Heck, I was in college and I found it to be quite profound.
Posted by Ceredur  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  12:05 PM
"Well, I guess you do what works."

But this sort of BS does not work. When you attempt to demonstrate the extent of a problem by making up a lie about the extent of the problem, people are turned off. Especially teens. The message people are left with is not that people die from drunk driving. But that members of MADD are crazy, have no problem with lying about the most intimate things, and are not to be trusted.

This reminds me of all the propaganda against drugs in the 80s. Those against teen drug use came up will all sorts of "facts" showing the downside of drug use, e.g., drug users killing children in microwave ovens. But because those teens who were in the drug culture knew those facts were lies, there was no reason for them to quit. And worse of all, it turned the whole anti-drug message into a huge joke.

If you honestly want someone to do something, you have to be honest.
Posted by Ima Fish  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  01:44 PM
More than the drunk driving problem is what i think is sad about how different people dieing is treated. We lost several students a year for different reasons when i was in high school. There was never any mention of it at school, nor memorial or anyhting at school. Until a football player died. He was drunk, got on his horse, and decided to ride it across a busy highway. Yet for some reason because he was a football we were allowed out of class for a huge memorial ceremony at the football stadium the next week with no mention of the stupidity of the dumbass.
Posted by Tim  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  07:02 PM
It's just not right to give fake reports of someone's death.

There are surely enough real cases of students killed or injured by drunk drivers (my high school had several) that you can talk about them instead of phony ones.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Thu Jun 05, 2008  at  07:18 PM
My high school did this a couple years ago, but it was more obviously fake because the "dead" students were just walking around everywhere with scary goth makeup. The car crash scene was pretty realistic, though.
Posted by Emily  on  Fri Jun 06, 2008  at  08:48 AM
Can you imagine the emotions of students who already knew someone who died in a drunk driving related accident? I'm pretty sure I know some people who would have full-fledged emotional breakdowns after this. At our school they showed us videos of family members of those who were killed by drunk drivers. It was upsetting, and real so it struck a chord.
Posted by Dracul  on  Sat Jun 07, 2008  at  08:27 PM
They did something similar to this 9 years ago at my high school. It was like Emily said, the kids walked around with white face makeup and didn't talk to anyone. Every 15 minutes another would go put on the makeup. It seemed to have the most profound effect on the people who wore the makeup, but they already took the subject seriously.

The scare tactics version sounds way over the line to me, especially for high schoolers. The ends don't always justify the means. People need to consider the consequences of their actions whether it be driving while intoxicated, or emotionally scarring some teenagers.
Posted by Crazy Ivan  on  Mon Jun 09, 2008  at  02:33 PM
This seems like sound logic! I mean there's nothing teenagers respond better to than being lied to and having their emotions played with-- especially those teenagers who plan to violate 2 or 3 laws by procuring and imbibing alcohol and then driving. Yeah! This won't contribute to any sort of backlash against MADD and their increasingly hysterical and puritanical methods! Full Speed Ahead!
Posted by capital L  on  Mon Jun 09, 2008  at  09:21 PM
They do the Every 15 Minutes program at my school also, however a bit different. They stage a fake car accident in front of the school (very realistic though) with actual student in it, and have them airlifted and driven away by paramedics. They even have parents ID them at the morgue and such, it's incredibly realistic. They end the program with a presentation on it, and it is incredibly emotional. It's a fantastic way to give us students an insight into the consequences of drunk driving.
Posted by Emily  on  Sun Jun 15, 2008  at  05:56 PM
Yeah, they did the same thing when I was back in High School.

Very manipulative, but very effective. I still have yet to drink and drive, well except for that one time when I had to drive 4 blocks after a few beers to get my really drunk friend home. But c'mon that's not too bad.
Posted by Jack Chimney  on  Wed Jul 02, 2008  at  05:21 AM
Posted by Chuck  on  Tue Jul 08, 2008  at  07:30 AM
There is a great deal not being mentioned about the "Every 15 Minutes" program. We don't just thrust a message of the death of a classmate into a school. Students know that a program designed to show the consequences of drunk driving will occur that day. If they go into shock at the announcement, it means that they weren't paying attention earlier. This program is designed to rectify that apathy.

I'm an EMT with a volunteer rescue squad. In our E15M versions, we stage a vehicle accident at the high school. Yes, it includes student actors in stage blood in a drunk driving crash situation. Yes, it evokes pain, fear, and tears. But in every one of these events, after cutting apart a car to remove a trauma victim, these kids are PAYING ATTENTION to the message. They see their friends "dying" because of the stupidity of drunken driving. They get to understand what other families have to deal with every day. And they get the opportunity to talk with the victims, both real and simulated, and with their own families.

I have participated in seven such events over the last decade as part of an ambulance crew or the team extricating patients from smashed vehicles. These are carefully designed programs, specifically for teens who usually have no concept or appreciation how deadly the actions of one drunk can be on so many families. For the rescue squad members, police, fire personnel, parents, teachers, and morticians who are active participants in the "Every 15 Minutes" program, this is unfortunately often a replay of actual events that we've responded to in the past. But we do this because we know this bloody drama makes the point, and kids listen.

For those of you who feel the program relies on "scare tactics" or is "too emotional", you are absolutely right. And that's exactly what is needed to convey the absolute horror of drunk driving. We do get reports of kids who receive counselling after one of our programs, but we've not heard of anyone sustaining emotional problems from such demonstrations.

Do kids watch reality shows? This is almost the ultimate reality show. If you think it's too much to inflict upon the same age group that is often itching to get boozed up, then pretend they are invincible, I suggest this. Either be a participant or audience member of an "Every 15 Minutes" presentation (held all over the country), or wait to know pain first-hand after a drunk driver accident. Chances are, with the preponderence of DUI, most people in this country will personally know someone hurt or killed by a drunk. A large percentage of those... will be the victims themselves.

So please appreciate the E15M program. Learn about it. Contribute your time and skill to it. You'll see why it WORKS.
Posted by Mike P., 1632, EMT  on  Sat Sep 27, 2008  at  04:12 AM
this was my school and the whole thing was really boring and they chose a bunch of really unliked people to "die" so no one really gave a shit at the assembly where we found out they weren't dead.
Posted by Jenny  on  Mon Oct 27, 2008  at  06:08 PM
Thank goodness he was alive. Nothing else matters. Rest in peace Connor. We love you.
-a classmate
Posted by A Wanderer's Lament  on  Sun May 10, 2009  at  06:07 PM
It seemed to have the most profound effect on the people who wore the makeup, but they already took the subject seriously.
Posted by pillar drill  on  Sun May 02, 2010  at  05:30 AM
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