A lesson they'll never forget.
Imagine it’s a perfectly normal day.
You wake up before the sun rises, shower, and eat breakfast. Your parent drops you off at high school. You see your friends before the bell rings, then head to class. As the announcements begin, you stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the office breaks the news:
“Four students were involved in a car crash. They were T-boned by a drunk driver while skipping school. Sadly, they did not survive.” They list the names. Everyone freezes. You begin to panic. It’s a small town; everybody knows everybody. Maybe it was your neighbor, your friend, or even a family member.
Then the office comes back on the loudspeaker. The story was made up. The students are alive and in good health. And it was all the school’s idea.
Though it sounds cruel and surreal, this is precisely what happened at a high school in Wisconsin last week, leaving many angry parents and traumatized students questioning the integrity of their school system. But why would the school pull such a stunt?
A Death Foretold
Brodhead, Wisconsin is your average all-American town. With just over 3,200 residents, it’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody.
Like most small towns, Brodhead is dedicated to keeping its children safe, only Brodhead High School went about it in an unorthodox way last week. Their actions are now being called ineffective and “emotionally harmful” to students.
In the midst of an ongoing campaign about safe driving awareness, which focuses on never texting while driving or driving under the influence, students at Brodhead High School were crushed to learn of the sudden and inexplicable deaths of four of their classmates during the morning announcements.
Another student recounted, “A lot of our fellow friends and students actually started crying because they thought these people were actually dead, and so I think a lot of them actually called their parents in school too.”
Then the unthinkable happened.
As you can see in these scattered clips from the school’s morning announcements, the administration reported the deaths of four students in a car accident.
“We have some bad news,” the Breaking News begins, “Four students were T-boned as they ditched school by a drunk driver.”
The woman continues, “Further information on this accident will be coming soon.” And when it did come, it wasn’t good.
“Four students who had the accident, the T-bone by a drunk driver, the unfortunate news is that they did not make it.”
According to junior Sam Bolen, who is named after an uncle who was killed by a drunk driver, “They went into detail about how one of them was rushed to the hospital. I was pretty upset. It is a really small school, like, most of the people really knew who they were. You kind of know who everybody is in a smaller school.”
Ten minutes later, the announcements came back on to say that the students were all alive. In fact, the accident had never happened. Instead, the entire thing was orchestrated as a simulation of what it would be like if the disastrous result of a DUI was ever felt in the small town.
The prank was a long time coming. Devised by the student council, the fake death lesson was approved by the school and the superintendent, Leonard Lueck, as part of the ongoing safe driving campaign. The “dead” students were in on the prank as well and had agreed to stay home from school and not use their phones.
Now, upset students and outraged parents from the community are questioning whether the “lesson” was in fact a dangerous scare tactic that went way too far. But did the school cross a line? The superintendent doesn’t think so. Here’s how he responded to the backlash…