Drunk Drivers Are Stupid

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a final meeting before the annual Project Graduation project that I have helped run for a number of years. If you aren’t familiar with the program, Project Gradutation is a program offered by many high schools in the United States, in which organized, adult-supervised and alcohol-free activities are offered as part of a post-graduation party, as an alternative to student-run events involving alcoholic beverages or other drugs. Most run the program the night of graduation; some choose that weekend. The theme for this year was a simple one: drunk drivers are stupid. 

The program is a great and often is a final way to celebrate the entire graduating class together. There are often lots of carnival-like games, tons of food (often ending with a breakfast buffet around 6 AM) and of course a DJ. The event is typically sponsored by the parent-teacher arm of the school and local businesses. 

I can imagine what you’re thinking at this point; many of the kids are just going to go and drink another night. That very well could be the case, and truthfully, we as a school are not going to stop students from experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous decisions that they will come across. We can, however, offer all of the resources that we have as a community to deter students from making terrible decisions that can result in the destruction of life.

In the past, I have found visual deterrents to be very impactful. I previously blogged about what Hopewell Central High School did; a full blown mock fatal car accident, with the student council president dying in the wreck. Everything from the blood and crime scene markers to the funeral home showing up. It was full of lights, sirens, and sadness. It was painful to watch. That’s the point. 

I have also arranged for a car that was involved with a DWI / DUI to be “donated” to a high school and display it prominently by the main entrance or where my seniors parked their cars. Again, the image is gruesome, but it’s suppose to be.

There are also lessons that health / PE teachers complete, but as an administrator, I tried to get as many teachers involved. At HVRSD, supervisors also taught one class to keep us in the loop (I loved it). I had second semester seniors. We did a whole unit on why driving under the influence is stupid. We talked about the process, and how everyone can see this because it’s a public record. My favorite lesson was pulling up three different articles on high school party busts; the first two with descriptions & pictures, but the third one had an article with the names of every student who was arrested. That article was the game changer for many. In a matter of hours, your life can change, and not for the better.

I recently saw one statistic that a drunk driver who gets arrested has driven as much as 430 separate times under the influence. How scary is that? 

It’s facts like that that our future needs to be aware of. Drunk driving, or driving under the influence of anything, it just downright stupid and dangerous. We see Celebrities getting busted daily and glorified in our pop culture, but we also see kids who just graduated go through the same thing. 

 Nothing is more painful that seeing someone who worked so hard only to have their lives ruined or taken away because of stupid decision making. I’ve seen it on all levels in schools, from students to administrators; on no level is it easier to deal with. As leaders, we have an onus the make sure that whomever this happens to gets the help they need. 

Here’s to hoping you or a student from your town does not have to go through this. In today’s times where we as a society seldomly agree on anything, we can all agree that drunk driving is stupid.

Some resources for dealing with Orlando

Dealing with grief in schools is tough.  Very tough.  Some schools are out already; some are just wrapping up, but regardless — questions will be had. Below is a simple letter I sent to my staff and included some resources to help your students deal with tragedy. 



It is with great sadness that I find myself writing another email addressing gun violence and terrorism.  With the shooting of a pop star that grew up down the road, and the deadliest mass shooting in American history taking place last evening, we are all in a state of pondering how such senseless acts could take place. 

With seven school days left, we are still charged with the well-being and educating our students.  While I know you will be teaching, packing, and partaking in end of year activities, I am assuming that at some point that questions will be had by students.  I know that you are the professionals who will address any issues appropriately and accordingly.

School Counselors  and social workers will clear their schedules to be available tomorrow; if anyone is in need of additional resources, please contact your supervisor and we will get them to you.

Below are some links and resources you can use if you need them.  A kind reminder that if you do address Orlando, please use your discretion when sharing any images or any news clips. 

Disney & Grief: http://efuneral.com/Articles/Top_10_Kids_Movies_Dealing_with_Loss_Death__Grief/375

Sesame Street and dealing with grief: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/topics/grief

Edutopia – Dealing with Grief in schools: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/tips-grief-at-school-2-chris-park

Talking to students about tragedy: http://www.fosterparents.com/articles/borba3.htm

Jerry Blumengarten’s  grief webpage: http://cybraryman.com/guidance.html

Even in the wake of tragedy, schools continue to be one of the safest places for children to be on a daily basis. Below are some conversational tips from Dr. Michele Borba personally shared on her Twitter feed today. I trust Michele with my own child’s well-being and consider her a personal friend and colleague. I hope you find her thoughts helpful.

· Turn off the TV and media when kids are present. Image can negatively impact children regardless of your zip code.
· Talk to the kids if they have questions. Open with “What have you heard?” Kids need the right facts. YOU not their peers provide the best source.
· Kids need to know it’s OK to share their feelings. It’s normal to be upset. Be calm and give only age appropriate information.
· Don’t give more information than the kid is ready to hear. More importantly, let your students know you’re there to listen.
· Don’t expect to help alleviate a student’s  anxiety unless you keep your own in check. Kids are calmer if we are calmer.
· Please don’t think because a student isn’t talking about the events that he/she didn’t hear about it.
· Give the information in small doses. Listen. Watch their response. Kids need processing time. Kids don’t need to know all the details and numbers. End with “I’m here for any questions you may have at anytime.”
· Here’s a great way to curb anxieties: Find proactive ways to alleviate fears about the tragedy.
· Stick to classroom routines. This soothes the stress and helps kids know that despite tragedy, that the world goes on. The sun will come up tomorrow.
· Draw kids’ attention to heroism in the tragedy. Use police, doctors, etc so kids see the goodness in the heartbreak.
· Kids respond to tragic news differently. Let your students know their feelings are normal. Help he/she express them. Follow his/her lead.
· Keep ongoing dialogue. Don’t explain more than they are ready to hear. Kids process and will want more later.
· T.A.L.K.

o Talk to the kid about the tragedy in an age-appropriate way

o Assess kid coping skills

o Listen, give some information and listen some more

o Kindle hope that the world goes on

· Plan what you’ll say to your students about the tragedy to boost their confidence and calmness. It’s OK to say “I don’t know” or “Good question. Let me find out.”

Operation Head-On: a sobering reality check



It’s a wonderful time of year and an awful time of year at the same time. With prom and seniors in high school celebrating their accomplishments and accolades in a public school system, we are also reminded of those who make poor choices and take celebration and merry making too far.

Last week, all juniors and seniors participated in  “Operation Head-On”.  The ideas was from a former student who now volunteers as an EMT in town.  The ideas was simple: stage a motor vehicle accident with students from the high school and show the process and people involved in a crash resulting from drunk driving.

Volunteer students donned make-up and scads fo stage blood, and positioned themselves as if they were ejected from a car.  The one car had the window cut out to show the importance.  Over a PA system, they played a faux transmission of how the call came in from 911 and had police, fire, and EMS dispatched.  To simulate real time, no emergency vehicles were on scene and took the actual time to respond.  The minutes appeared to be forever.  Students were sitting in silence.

The officer first responded and checked to see if there were any survivors; the driver survived, and wasn’t really hurt, so he was pulled to an area where he could take several sobriety tests.  Every student sat in silence as the drunk senior attempted to pass these tests.

While the testing was occurring, about 6 firetrucks arrived and one began to use the ‘jaws of life’ to break down the car and get the other survivors out of the car.  EMT’s also arrived (about 4 EMS trucks) were treating survivors and loading them onto ambulances.

At one point, EMS requested a helicopter to take a student to the nearest hospital.   We were fortunate enough to have secured a helicopter land on the high school field and join the other apparatuses on scene.


Lastly, for effect, a hearse arrived on scene and bagged the deceased senior.  Again, silence.  Some tears.  Looks of horror from the crowd.  And I say good.

The Principal called all students to the gym and read an obituary of the senior.  Once again, silence.

What a fantastic program.  With prom this Friday, I hope the images of what was seen last week stay cemented in their heads for a very long time.

I wish every school would do something like this with seniors.  If you’re in a position of power to execute this, do it.



#NJED Disaster Relief for Schools

NOTE: The Original post can be found at Teachercast.

Dear Friends,

The last few days have seen some of the most heartbreaking photos and videos coming out of the state of New Jersey. Even days after the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, over 1 million New Jersey residents are still without running water or power.

Today, we are announcing, along with other great educators across the state the #NJED Hurricane Sandy Supply Relief program.

This program demonstrates the positive power of Social Media and it’s effectiveness in helping those during their time of need. School Districts affected by Sandy can simply fill out the form on the website listing supplies they need in order to get back on their feet. School Districts, business, or individuals looking to donate can contact those in need directly to provide assistance.

Please help us and spread the word of this event by linking our #NJED Badge to your website or blog

Thank you for your time and consideration for this great cause.

We are also looking into creating a place for donations to be made for school districts/students in need. If you could help us create such a place, this would be much appreciated.

For more information: #NJED Disaster Relief Hompage


Normalcy is paramount for a steadfast return

For those in the Northeast, we are just beginning to return to some stages of normalcy. Power is being restored, cable/Internet is making its way back, and commerce is beginning to open its’ doors. Surely we will be taking significant detours and planning some driving habits over the next few weeks, but towns will try to return to some kind of normalcy.

That being said, it’s crucial that your school try to establish your daily routine as quickly as possible. Having special schedules or anything that is different “just because” is not needed. Normalcy is needed for students and for staff. Everyone in the school has gone trough the natural disaster together, and having a normal routine will help all.

Naturally, you’ll have some students and staff that will be still effected by the storm. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to your counselors and offer some resources to aid in assisting those in need (links will be below). Also, local hospital or clinics tend to offer grief or trauma counseling services free of charge after natural disasters. If your school needs it, make a phone call and see if they will.

Some post-crisis links:

Jerry Blumengarten’s disaster link webpage

teaching after a disaster

10 ways to help your IT department recover

helping students cope after a hurricane

hurricane stress & distress handouts

Preparing your school for Hurricane Sandy

The northeast may very well experience another repeat of last year; have a freak storm around Halloween. While throwing kids into non-trick-or-treating mode is not favored (almost a crisis in of itself) , the community needs to prepare for the safety of its’ residents. Often, schools are staging areas, meal centers or even shelters.

A school leader needs to think ahead and prepare for your building to possibly make a safe, efficient transition so that it will be beneficial to those who need it. Before you begin, I advise you to bookmark the following websites on your phone and follow the following on Twitter:

ready.gov — emergency prepardness

hurricane Sandy updates – national hurricane center

Emergency Prepardness guide from FEMA/ NJ State Police

NJ OEM — real time updates from NJSP and OEM

Follow on Twitter: @RedCross , @twc_hurricane , @fema , @njoem2010 , @njsp (search and see if your town / county has a twitter, as well)

Next, gather your crisis team, brief the team on the potential emergency (in this case, Hurricane Sandy), and how this will effect your community and your building. Remind members of the team to review building plans, review their emergency books, and ensure that each room is prepared with flashlights and their jump-kits / emergency supplies.

If your cafeteria manager isn’t on your crisis team, seek her/him out and ensure that your emergency water and food are accessible.

You should also reach out to the police officer who is your school liaison so you can see what may become of your school in this emergency. For example, your police / OEM liaison may know that the gym will have cots or food staged in it; in that case you may want your gym teachers to take down nets or put away materials.

School staff should be unplugging everything in their classrooms and locking up any items that are of value; no disrespect to your community members, but things have a tendency to walk when lots of outsiders come into a building.

Lastly, before leaving school, put all of the materials you or the emergency personnel may need in the main office or another central location. Your police department will have a key to access it.

Hopefully, none of this will go into play, but if it does, you’re ready to go.