Every 15 Minutes … a student is angered

If you have a teenager in high school, he’s probably being subjected sometime this year to the Every 15 Minutes program.

If you’re unfamiliar with this program, it’s a colossal nationwide project that involves a town’s police, emergency medical personnel, school officials, city authorities and students.

The centerpiece of the two-day event is a staged DUI car crash in which a student “dies” and the police, ambulances, paramedics and other officials all go through the motions of dealing with it, including having the coroner appear to collect the body.

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During the rest of the event, every 15 minutes, “Death” takes another student out of class, and the student’s passing is announced on the school intercom.

The purpose of this expensive road show is supposed to be to teach students about the dangers of drunk driving. This year’s program adds texting while driving to the deadly behaviors.

The program was probably created with the best of intentions. But then there’s that saying about the road to hell.

In a recent performance at a San Fernando Valley high school, the effect might have been something other than intended. The reaction heard most often from a large number of students was anger at the organizers of the program.

First there was general annoyance expressed at having to take time out of the school day for what amounted to a theatrical spectacle. Many of the students scoffed at the equivalence being drawn between drunkenness and texting.

Even more teens reported being “creeped out” by the “dead” students, who were allowed to wander the campus wearing zombie-style makeup.

But a number of students apparently didn’t get the memo about the event being only a performance. Dozens of students who heard the name of a classmate announced as being dead were seen to burst into tears, including some whose siblings were picked by “Death.”

Upset students were sent to the school library to talk to counselors, only to be given a piece of paper explaining the gag and telling them to write an essay about how the friend’s or sibling’s “death” made them feel.

“Ticked off” seemed to be the universal answer. Even the principal, normally a jovial sort, was seen scowling through much of the day.

The Every 15 Minutes program is run by a national nonprofit enlisting government resources. It aims to drive home the message of safe driving by creating an emotional response in students.

The official website boasts, “The crash is staged, the emotions are real!”

Too real, if students are bursting into tears. What is intended as a lesson borders on cruelty.

Government does a lot of things under the umbrella of public safety. I can’t help but wonder if allowing government resources to be used in torturing students should be one of them.

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