A crowd of senior class students found themselves in the parking lot in front of Fort Dorchester High School Thursday morning watching a crime scene unfold in front of them.
In the parking lot were two mangled cars smashed against each other, nose-to-nose. On the ground lay two motionless classmates with what appeared to be blood oozing from their heads. Inside the beat up cars sat a handful of other classmates, moaning for help and barely moving – some not at all.
Meanwhile their friends were frantically running around the disaster area, assuring their friends that they would be okay and calling for assistance from 911 dispatch until local responders arrived on the scene – firetrucks, cop cars, a helicopter – to cover up the young bodies and interrogate the guilty survivors.
Onlookers from the senior class were fixated on the spectacle, some even pulling out their cell phones and cameras to capture their classmates – all theatre students – as they acted out what could happen to each and every kid if they choose to drink and drive.
The High School Injury Prevention Coalition (HSIPC) is working to bring awareness to High School students about potential driving risks around prom season. Fort Dorchester High School’s prom is scheduled for April 5.
HSIPC, North Charleston first responders and Michelle Kidd’s theatre arts class (levels 2-4 honors) worked in cooperation to put on the demonstration for the class, all for the sake of educating students on making smart decisions on prom night – and every night.
HSIPC is a group of volunteers from local emergency services and hospitals that formed in an effort to help reduce injuries in high school students caused from bad driving decisions. Their mission is to decrease substance abuse and distracted driving as well as to increase seatbelt use through outreach programs and activities in local high schools.
FDHS Assistant Principal Scot Floyd said it is a lesson the school tries to deliver to its students every year.
“I think they (the theatre class) did a remarkable job,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that this exercise will save at least one life.”
In particular, faculty hopes to prevent further deaths after already losing a FDHS senior in a traffic accident earlier this year.
“This is a very vivid image I want them to keep in their mind,” Floyd said.
The exercise started out with a performance called “The Truth About Drinking and Driving” in the FDHS auditorium, where the theatre class acted out an after-prom party that involved a group of teenagers who, after having some drinks, got into a car and drove off. The aftermath of the actors’ decision to leave was demonstrated out in the parking lot, where two defeated cars were displayed as props for the exercise. The theatre students interacted with local responders in such a way to show students the consequences of drinking and driving, including being arrested for those actions.
The exercise depicted the deaths of four classmates. The driver responsible, played by senior Saige Rivers, underwent a sobriety test and was subsequently arrested.
Officer John Lawrence with the North Charleston Police Department explained to students that because of her actions – drinking and driving resulting in the death of four people – the driver would be potentially charged with felony DUI times four, and looking at up to 100-plus years in jail. She and her family would also lose their possessions from lawsuits.
Lawrence also told the class that he arrested one student from FDHS after prom last year for drinking and driving.
“Be responsible for your actions,” the officer told FDHS seniors. “I want to see each and every one of you cross that stage at graduation. I do not want to see you in the back of my car.”
Theatre teacher Michelle Kidd told students that after her own senior year of high school her best friend was killed by a drunk driver. At the time, she said, she had never had to bury anybody before – not even a grandparent.
“This is something I’m super passionate about,” she said. “The goal is for us to teach our students so they understand and hopefully think twice before they get behind the wheel – or their friends get behind the wheel.”
The prom after-party performance was written and directed by FDHS student Nicole “Cocoa” Willis, who said she felt the message was well received by the senior class.
“It’s really important for our youth to understand the dangers of drinking and driving,” she said. “I think everyone did very well. I think it was taken very seriously.”
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