Free-Range Kids

Fearing 'Terrorism,' Middle School Cancels D.C. Trip

Just because the world is not perfectly safe does not mean it is terribly dangerous.

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A middle school in Ohio has cancelled its 3-day student trip to Washington, D.C. Why? Because of terrorism, say school officials.

What the officials don't mention is their own inability to process the idea that just because the world is not perfectly safe does not mean that it is terribly dangerous. Not to mention their misguided sense that adults can control the entire world in all of its complexity simply by clutching kids closer.

As The Washington Post reports:

School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled "if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised," according to the letter sent Nov. 8 by North Ridgeville Academic Center Principal Amy Peck, trip adviser Brittany Cioffoletti and Jim Powell, the school district's superintendent.

"Sadly, we have reached that point," the letter continued. "Since our parent meeting, we have mourned with many across the country at the loss of lives in Las Vegas, Manhattan and Texas. [Recently,] a man was arrested near the White House after he made threats to the lives of our capital's police force. All of these incidents at 'soft targets' and public places have led to our difficult decision to cancel this year's trip .?.?. As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy."

Is allowing parents to drive their kids to and from school worth the potential for tragedy? Because the number one way that kids die is as car passengers, not as terrorism victims. As one Washington Post commenter asked, "Are there no math teachers at this school?" The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically low. So are the odds of being able to predict where the next "soft target" will be. What if the administrators cancelled the D.C. trip and said, "Instead, we're going someplace really safe: a small church in Texas"? We cannot predict everything that is going to happen.

It is not prudence at work here; it is the feeling that if anything terrible did happen, it would be the school's fault. Many parents can relate to that feeling. As the Post story continues:

"As a superintendent, every time we send kids on these kind of trips, I worry about it the whole time they're gone," [Powell] said. "It's a lot of responsibility."

But worry and responsibility are two different things. Responsibility is what you take to make the variables under your control safer. As superintendent, you put a stop sign in front of the school. You run some fire drills.

But it is not any human's responsibility—or ability—to predict and avoid the rarest and most random of fates.

Nonetheless, when something bad happens to a child outside the home, it is often framed as negligence—Why did the parents allow it?—though if a child falls down the stairs at home, it is usually framed as an accident.

That's why so many people are so scared to let their kids do anything, from playing outside to visiting D.C. They know that if something should go wrong, however unpredictable it may be, they are likely to be blamed.

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  1. I blame Thomas Jefferson.

  2. I’m sorry, but if the nation’s capital is good enough for our precious politicians, then it’s good enough for some children, who are, let’s face it, at this point just takers and burdens on society.

    1. My god, man! Are you really comparing the safety of the nation’s intellectual, philosophical, defensive, and moral princes to that of mere snot factories? Perspective man, perspective!

    2. Yeah, I’m thinking DC is a lot safer than the average school

  3. To be fair, I went to Washington as a child and saw how Congress worked and it scarred me for life.

    1. Our 8th grade class also did a week in DC back in the good ole’ days. At the time, it was actually inspiring. Now, it gives me a gut feeling for how the place works (for better or worse).

      These kids from OH are getting gypped out of a valuable experience. (Not to mention the secondary effect of pointing out that just because you spend time around other people doesn’t mean that you’re going to wind up as the victim of a mass murderer.)

    2. Do they still have that ugly blue carpet?

  4. …it is the feeling that if anything terrible did happen, it would be the school’s fault.

    That’s why God made permission slips.

  5. As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy.

    This sentence, by itself, is commendable.

  6. That’s silly. Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Who ever heard of such a thing happening in Washington DC?

  7. I wonder why kids grow up to need safe spaces? Related perhaps?

  8. “Terrorism”, eh? Maybe they’re just afraid to say out loud what it really is: D.C. is a criminal-infested shithole.

      1. That list is full of small towns nobody’s ever heard of. It’s a pretty strange way to compile a “most dangerous city” list.

        1. Number of crimes per 1,000 population is a pretty standard way to calculate the violent crime rate. What’s your preferred method?

          1. If we’re slicing America into neighborhoods of 25,000 I can easily point to many more dangerous ones which are not on that list.

            The problem with that list is they are using “city boundaries” which are nearly useless for purposes of statistics or comparisons.

            1. If we’re slicing America into neighborhoods of 25,000 I can easily point to many more dangerous ones which are not on that list.

              That would be an excellent counterargument to a list with that methodology. I suggest you hold onto it until one comes out.

              The problem with that list is they are using “city boundaries” which are nearly useless for purposes of statistics or comparisons.

              What’s your preferred method for defining a city for the purposes of crime rates?

              1. The other common one is metropolitan area.

                1. Yes, metropolitan statistical areas were specifically designed to overcome the problem I mentioned.

                  That would be an excellent counterargument to a list with that methodology. I suggest you hold onto it until one comes out.

                  It would be more informative than the misleading list you linked to.

          2. I’m just sad South Tucson was too small to make the list.

            Nowhere in AZ made it in fact, which is surprising to me.

      2. I won’t deny that some places are worse. I wasn’t shocked at all to see East St. Louis, IL at the top of that list. But just because D.C. isn’t the absolute worst doesn’t mean that it isn’t pretty shitty.

  9. Big fans of Designated Survivor, apparently.

    1. Or Spiderman: Homecoming more likely.

  10. I’m much more afraid of Statism – which may be a better reason to avoid DC.

  11. Sexual assault roundup, 8:57 am update:

    NY times reporter Glenn Thrush accused of sexual assault. Two female fellow reporters. NYT suspended Thrush.

    Burn baby burn

    1. Anyone can make an accusation. I’m sure we will all give him the benefit of the doubt until this is proven in a court of law.

  12. The school’s website indicates they allow their precious darlings to play FOOTBALL. Can you say “concussion,” “life long debilitating injuries” and “othering” of kids who aren’t skilled enough to become end zone heroes and score with the cheerleaders?

    1. Cheerleaders are overrated anyway.

      1. Non-Porche drivers say the same thing about Porches.

  13. I suspect that in reality this school ‘accidentally’ spent the money that was intended to be used for this trip, and they included weasel words like ‘safety of the children’ as an excuse. Or they were relying on something like bake sale proceeds that didn’t materialize. Something just doesn’t smell right.

    Just my opinion, obviously, but the whole ‘world is too dangerous’ slant seems too idiotic to be true. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t underestimate the idiocy of school administrators.

    1. Oh, stupid me. I forgot that Trump might be in Washington while the kids are there. That’s probably the real reason, right? Can’t expose children to the President, that would be insane and dangerous.

      /sarc

    2. That has to be it, right? I mean, I lived in northern Virginia (near Mount Vernon) for years and saw busloads of kids lining up at that place all the time. It’s almost a rite of passage for some kids (I couldn’t go on my school trips – couldn’t afford it).

    3. No matter how insane any given estimate might sound, one can never underestimate the idiocy of school administrators, or law enforcement, or bureaucrats, or politicians – hmm, starting to see a common thread here …

      1. In my experience those individuals aren’t insane, they just have bizarre decision making based on criteria that are insane. It’s one reason why I suspect that the whole ‘safety’ angle isn’t real. It’s the type of excuse you make to parents when the real reason would piss parents off.

        You know, something like ‘we forgot those funds were ear marked, our bad!’.

  14. School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled “if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised. Sadly, we have reached that point.

    1. The upside of having all of the country’s biggest pervs housed in one city is that the rest of us nice, normal Americans can easily avoid them. So canceling a field trip there might not be such a bad idea.

  15. A class of eighth graders would mostly be fourteen year-olds. Obviously the school is concerned about taking fourteen year-olds to the Capitol and having Senator Roy Moore try to date them.

    1. That was funny..

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