The Grim Reaper will visit a Thomas Stone High School classroom every 15 minutes on Thursday, leaving behind a "living dead" student who silently reminds classmates of the consequences of drinking or texting while driving.
The Thomas Stone Student Government Safe Driving Task Force is participating in the National Every 15 Minutes program on April 12 and 13, which includes a mock automobile accident, the removal by the Grim Reaper of 30 preselected students from classrooms and a post-school trial of the "drunk" driver who caused the morning accident. Sponsored and coordinated by the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD), Every 15 Minutes is a national two-day program that encourages students to think about personal safety when driving, especially when alcohol or texting are involved. The program challenges students to recognize that their actions affect others besides themselves.
Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death among teen-age youth, said Guy Yesse, event coordinator and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) lieutenant with the WVFD. The program goal, which is geared toward eleventh- and twelfth-grade students, is to educate teens through realistic experiences that simulate the magnitude of tragedies caused by drunk driving and texting while driving, Yesse said.
"Living dead" students will be taken from class on Thursday, made up to look like corpses, and returned to class as silent reminders that Every 15 Minutes someone is killed or seriously injured in an alcohol-related incident. Students must remain in character for the remainder of the school day and they may not speak or interact with other students. A School Resource Officer will enter the student's classroom and read an obituary prepared by the student's parents. Simultaneously, uniformed officers will make mock death notifications to the parents of these children at their home, place of employment or business.
A simulated traffic accident will occur in the front of the school at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Rescue workers will treat "injured" students who will experience the sensation of being involved in a tragic, alcohol-related driving collision. Members of the WVFD will handle fatalities on the scene while firefighters and paramedics remove the injured students with jaws-of-life tools. A helicopter will land across from the school and be used to simulate a fly-out of an injured student. Student participants will continue their experience after school at the Charles County Courthouse for a mock trial of the "drunk driver" who caused the morning accident.
At the end of the day, students who participated in the staged accident as well as those who were made-up as the "living dead" will be taken to Camp Merrick in Nanjemoy for an overnight retreat. The retreat will simulate the separation from friends and family. A support staff of counselors and staff from Thomas Stone as well as members of the WVFD will facilitate the retreat.
Students will work on a presentation to be given at Thomas Stone on Friday when they are "brought back to life." The focus of the assembly stresses that the decision to consume alcohol can affect many more people than just the one who drinks and the dangers of texting while driving. The assembly, which will also feature a motivational guest speaker, will illustrate to students the potentially dangerous consequences of their use of alcohol and texting while driving, regardless of how casual they believe their use is.
"This program has a powerful message that is designed to prevent drunk driving and texting while driving," said Thomas Stone Principal L.C. Martin. "If we save one student's life, it is worth it," Martin said.
The event also includes the participation by the Charles County Sheriff's Office, other county fire and rescue departments, Thomas Stone High School staff, Charles County Public Schools, College of Southern Maryland, community officials, Charles County Courthouse officials and a wide cross section of the Charles County community at-large.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 caring community schools that offer a technological advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator (students), or Keith Hettel, Section 504 Coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, Maryland 20646; (301) 932-6610/870-3814. For special accommodations call (301) 934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.