It’s all over the news: some bright sparks over at Como Park Senior High School in St. Paul would not let a half-naked teenager put on clothes during a fire alarm. (Story here.) When a chemistry experiment triggered the fire alarm, Kayona Hagen-Tietz was in the swimming pool. Her teacher told her that there was not time to change; a soaking wet Hagen-Tietz went outside dressed only in her swimsuit.
The school officials then refused to let Hagen-Tietz walk to a nearby elementary school to get out of the cold (temperature: -5F; windchill: -25F), get into a teacher’s car, or otherwise shelter herself. Hagen-Tietz got frostbite and required medical attention.
Of all of the sane, compassionate responses to this situation, the administrators chose to let her freeze. They could have lent her a coat, had a female teacher put Hagen-Tietz in her car, escorted her to the elementary school, given her a blanket or two out of their own vehicles (it’s Minnesota – everyone must have blankets in their cars), gotten permission from whatever power that be to bend whatever rules needed bending, or borrowed a blanket from the firemen. Firemen almost always have blankets because of situations like this.
Moreover, the fact that this was “unexpected” is hardly an excuse. This is Minnesota. As fire alarms do not leave students time to get coats, hats, and mittens from their lockers, basic emergency preparation should include a plan to get evacuated students to a safe, warm area in a timely fashion.