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Some Douglas High students protest anti-DUI program’s realism

The Associated Press

MINDEN — A group of Douglas High School students has criticized a school anti-drunken driving program, saying its realism caught them off guard and went overboard.

Some students began crying after a sheriff’s deputy entered classrooms without warning last week and notified them of the deaths of classmates in a drunken driving accident.

Only later did students learn it was part of the school’s “Every 15 Minutes” program aimed at reducing such accidents. The “dead” students took part in a mock DUI crash.

About 25 students skipped Friday’s follow-up assembly to protest the mock death announcements. Some plan to complain to the Douglas County School Board about the program, said sophomore Stacey Pociasek.

“We’re supposed to trust these people,” Pociasek told Gardnerville’s Record-Courier newspaper. “I know some kids are going to look back when someone does die and wait for someone to come in and tell them it’s not real.

“Some things you should just leave alone. Death and funerals are one of those sacred things you cannot mess with. We all think they went way too far,” she added.

Senior Leanne Dey said she had mixed emotions.

“It was really intense to see your friends in that accident. I knew all of them,” Dey said. “But when the police came into our class earlier to tell us ‘Jake died this morning,’ I started crying. When I found out it wasn’t real, it made me mad. But then you think it’s to invoke those feelings.”

Parent Sandy Withrow criticized the program, saying it left her daughter, Amber, “shaking and in tears because it was so (much) like two weeks ago” when she was involved in a wreck.

“I believe in teaching kids a lesson, but ‘Every 15 Minutes’ goes overboard,” Withrow said. “For students to come running into class saying this child is dead, that’s not fair. They should have had some warning. Let’s not rip these kids’ hearts out and throw it back in their faces.”

Douglas High Principal Charlie Condron defended the program, saying it has taken on greater importance with the approach of high school proms and graduation events.

“We’ve had everything from girls and guys crying to kids who were angry at us,” Condron told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “But this is the riskiest time of the year for high school students and we’re doing our best to make sure no one dies this year.”

Senior Renee Ruppel, who helped coordinate the program, said 18 months of planning went into creating the authenticity that would make an impact on her classmates.

“I think this is perfect right now before prom. Hopefully, we save someone’s life,” Ruppel said.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said he thinks the program can have a powerful impact on students.

“We’ve got to do something, and if we can save one life, then we’re doing our job,” he said.


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