The wrong standard for “wrong doing” when it comes to student safety


“A Brooklyn teen who drowned on a class trip upstate was warned four times to leave the lake before he drowned..”… “……the report – which found no wrongdoing by a Department of Education employee…”


First I am amazed that these (almost identical) and very preventable incidents continue year after year during my 30 year experience in public education. Professional ethics should compel us to expand the definitions of Right and Wrong doings. Parents send their children to school with the correct assumption that the professionals are properly trained to protect the wellbeing of students in their charge. Why were these students so far away from the group? Why this teacher was not aware, made aware, or ignored some very fundamental principles of the psychological workings of the teenage mind? I understand that we have entered the age of professional education training (the study of developmental psychology)not being important; and that anyone, who wishes to do so can teach, after having a crash course in educational theory; but these tragedies consistently occurred even during the historical periods when formal educational training was required. And so this falls on school administration to make sure that staff is well versed in school and district policies and procedures. This means that Principals and AP’s must risk and accept being called: “too strict”; “not wanting the children to have fun”; “not letting students make decisions for themselves”; etc., if students are to remain safe. If a school administrator can’t take that “push-back”; then they should consider that perhaps school leadership is not their calling. Allowing a student to “decided”, to be “happy”, by placing themselves in a dangerous, or deadly situation is very much an example of wrong doing. And so my questions: What part of the number “4” did the teacher not understand has no meaning for a teenager; the power of compliance is measured in the power associated and demonstrated in a single request; multiple request signal to a teenager that they have a “choice” outside of your decision. Further, psycho-linguistics informs us that a teenager voicing the phrase “OK”, simply translates into: “I (‘auditorily’) hear you”; not that I understand or will even comply with your directive. Field trip management begins before the trip (pre-trip briefing) when students ( and particularly the usual “hard-head” suspects) are informed that any failure  to follow  a safety rule (even of the slightest kind) on a trip, will lead to: (a) that person will be “tethered” to a staff member for the duration of the trip. (b) A meeting with the dean or school administrator once students return to the school. (c) The possible removal from further trips and similar activities, until it can be proven that the student can follow the rules of the school (everyone must see them lose the right to at least the next trip). (d) Just the threat to a high school student, that: “you can only go on a field trip if one of your parents serves as a chaperone”; is very often enough to influence good behavior on the part of that student. Finally, the teacher in this tragedy should have physically (not verbally) escorted this particular student to a safe area. The other tragedy will be that schools will simply put a halt on trips; until this latest tragedy passes from public memory. But this will only hurt students; I believe in the purpose and power of out of school experiences. These very  important educational experiences are of great benefit to those students whose parents for whatever reason; don’t engage their children in the rich cultural, scientific, historical and arts experiences found in the “informal- educational” school system; but “do no harm”, must be the schools primary directive.

“A Brooklyn teen who drowned on a class trip upstate was warned four times to leave the lake before he drowned – and even cursed at fellow students who told him swimming wasn’t allowed, according to a report released Tuesday by the special commissioner of investigation. But the report – which found no wrongdoing by a Department of Education employee – also revealed that a teacher and a park employee who told Jean Fritz Pierre, 16, to get out of the lake, left the area without making sure the teen stayed on dry land. International High School teacher Randy Calderone told Pierre and another teen to get out of the water after he spotted them splashing each other about three feet from shore. “Calderone told the boys that no one was allowed in the lake and they responded, ‘OK’ … Calderone instructed them to get their stuff and come down the path because they had to board the bus,” the report states. “Calderone and his group continued down the path and he thought that Pierre and Student B were with them,” according to the report. And earlier that afternoon a Bear Mountain State Park employee in a motorboat told Pierre to get out of the water – but like Calderone, he did not remain to ensure Pierre stayed out. “Pierre started to come out of the water, but when the boat left, Pierre entered the lake again,” the report states. Pierre drowned June 24 while on a trip to the Rockland County park with his class from his Prospect Heights high school.”– NY POST