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MHS student calls for end to mock crashes, calling them ‘insensitive’

By Bethany Knipp

A Manhattan High School student expressed concerns at the USD 383 school board meeting Wednesday about a mock car crash the school held in March meant to demonstrate the dangers of drunken driving and texting while driving.

Junior Haley Heaton said it was “insensitive” of school administrators to hold a mock car crash without alternatives for students or a “trigger warning” — a cautionary statement about graphic content in an attempt for students to avoid situations that could evoke strong emotional responses including panic attacks.

Heaton read to board members a letter she previously had read before school administrators.

“A mock car crash would certainly appeal to the real-life emotions and repercussions of drunk driving, however, its graphic nature is potentially triggering and insensitive within the context of recent losses of the Manhattan High student body,” Heaton said.

She cited the deaths of Brett Bolton who died in a car crash on Marlatt Avenue in August of 2011 at age 14, and the March death of Naomi McClendon, 18, who died of alcohol-related causes in Arizona.

“The school has no right to intentionally inflict emotional pain in an attempt to teach a lesson,” she said.

Heaton said she is aware that mock car crashes can be an effective tool for students, but she asked for school board members and administrators to either cancel the demonstration in the future, or if not, post a trigger warning and with the option for students not to watch it.

“Death by tragedy is real, and the students at Manhattan High are aware of it,” she said.

Board member Darell Edie said he appreciated Heaton coming forward to speak up about the issue, especially since students rarely voice their concerns at board meetings.

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