Reaction to Scared Straight program at El Camino High School

It has been said that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  If that is true, then last week you could have found the principal and the guidance counselors from El Camino High School in suburban San Diego driving steam rollers recently.

This rant will be the first under post I make under the new category, “Someone should have said, ‘No!.'”  I am dumbfounded by the frequency of articles out there that chronicle people saying and doing things that are simply stupid.  I know that there are crazy, stupid people in this world, but I have always thought that sane and rational people tended to keep them in check.  A stupid person might do something stupid, but it is much more difficult to get sane people to be complicit with stupid people.  The evidence, does not bear out this conclusion.  In case after case, I see something done that had to go through many hands before it passed on for public consumption.  In many of these cases, the complexity of the action meant that multiple persons had to be involved, but no one said, “No!”

The things I will focus on in this category are those that give a reaction like a punch to the gut when they are heard.  The decisions made by these people tend to cause an instant feeling of strong emotions, and leave the reader or listener with the question, “How could this happen?”

Of course, the best historical example of this is the Holocaust, but I do not want to bring down the room too much, and my light-hearted sarcastic style could not bear the weight of dealing with subjects that are this profound.  No, I plan to focus on people like the Austin car dealer who thought it would be a good sales tactic to use the racially derogatory term ‘wetback’ (I use this only to explain what he said, and would not use this term myself) in a TV commercial.  Someone should have said, “No!”  I am not a car dealer, an advertiser or a TV producer, so I can only imagine how many hands this went through on the way to it actually being broadcast, but I will be it was a lot.  I imagine at a minimum, 30 people saw this ad before it was ever aired from the workers at the dealership, to the advertising agency, to the director of the commercial, to the television studio where it was aired. 

Someone should have stopped this.  I find it difficult to believe that all the people agreed that this was a good decision.  For this reason, when something like this happens, those in charge- assuming they were not part of the decision making process- should investigate and determine who all signed off on it.  If there is not clear evidence that the players involved questioned what was happening, they should be let go.  Anyone with the final say, be it the person who sold the ad time at the TV station, the program director, the director of the ad for the agency or the manager of the car lot, should be terminated.  There are only three possibilities, and all are bad:

1. They actually agreed with the things said in the ad.

2. They were ignorant of the social implications involved with using these types of terms.

3. They knew better, but did not have the guts to speak up.

I don’t want people with the qualities listed above working for me.

This brings me to the article that drew my ire in this regard.  It is the story of a program instituted at El Camino High School in California.  Officials at this high school had decided that they really wanted to drive home the message that drinking and driving is bad to their students.  So they planned to keep some students out of class for a day.  The school officials then arranged for officers from the Highway Patrol to enter the classes and tell students that there friends who were not in class that day had been killed in drunk driving accidents.

I looked up the Oceanside School District and discovered that there are 30+ campuses including three high schools there.  I assume, therefore that El Camino High School is no Podunk school out in the sticks.  I used to work in a large school district, and if El Camino is anywhere close to the high schools there, they have a principal, multiple assistant principals, multiple counselors and perhaps a hundred teachers or more on staff.  Then there were the officials and officers with the highway patrol who were involved with this.  I find it hard to believe that at no point did a person say, “No, this is wrong.”

It should not be incumbent upon the students to have the maturity to explain to the entire school administration that “Death is real. Don’t play with our emotions.”  These people should know better.  In this era of school shootings and Columbine-like tragedies, schools increasingly find themselves employing grief counselors and other professionals whose job it is to care for the emotional stability of these sometimes fragile teens.  Teens are so charged up on hormones that their problems get magnified, and every issue for them can be a life-crisis. 

The officials at El Camino did not take the emotional well being of their students into account.  A girl may have broken up with her boyfriend the night before, and is wondering if life is worth living.  Or worse, what if a relative or friend of one of the students had died in a car accident in the last year, or the last week.  The logistics of attaining this type of information on all the students in the school beforehand would make it nearly impossible to pull it off and keep it a secret, so I’m assuming that it was not done, and it’s shameful.

One of the young ladies from the school said, “You feel betrayed by your teachers and administrators, these people you trust.  But, then I felt selfish for feeling that way, because, I mean, if it saves one life, it’s worth it.”  Really.  This is a liberal attitude if I’ve ever heard one.  What if one of these students is really scarred from this, kills himself/herself, or learns not to trust those who are in authority because of it?  Is it really worth it then?  No.  Good intentions do not make right.  Right is right, and wrong is wrong.  Banning alcohol all together might save one life, but does that make it worth it?  It sounds like this poor young lady has been given her specious reasoning from the officials at the school.

And, do not think they were completely unaware of the implications of their actions.  “They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized,” said guidance counselor Lori Tauber, who helped organize the shocking exercise and got dozens of students to participate. “That’s how they get the message.”  I guess we could put shock collars on them also, and drive home that message.  It might save a life, you know.  By the way, “F—” her.

It is clear that these officials knew the implications of their actions, and implemented the program anyway, but someone should have said, “No!”  What’s the solution?  Fire the administration of the school, every counselor, and principal there.  They are most culpable.  Second, a written reprimand should be given to all teachers and DPS personnel who had prior knowledge of the event or participated in the event who did not question what was being done.  The counselors should have their licenses revoked also.  And/or, you could take the suggestion of a friend of mine who saw this story, and said, “let all the students punch that principal in the face.’