Tuesday, May 5, 2009

PSHS Band Student vs. Swine Flu!

This is kind of amazing. What do you think? I found it through one of my old teachers on facebook.

Letter from a Plano Senior High School Band Student
Friday, May 1, 2009 at 6:36pm

Dear Dr. Otto,

Today, at 3:45 PM, approximately 21 hours before I was to leave for Corpus Christi on a band trip that had quite literally been planned since the beginning of the school year, I was informed that the trip was cancelled, due to concerns over swine flu. I do not know if that decision came directly from you, or from someone in your office, but as you are the superintendent, I thought writing to you would be appropriate.
Shame on you, sir. Shame on you for succumbing to the scare tactics that the media has used for years and years. This swine flu is just the newest mutation of the flu virus, a mutation that occurs every single year. A quick chat with any of the AP biology students in your district could have told you that a mutation in the flu virus is a normal occurrence, natural and expected. A talk to one of the history students in your district might have revealed to you that this same frenzy over superflu, or avian flu, or SARS, has become almost a yearly occurrence. Had you asked one of the AP statistics students in your district, you might have learned that with 26 cases in the state of Texas as of 4:54 PM today (April 30, 2009), a state with a population of 24,326,974, according to the US Census Bureau, the chances of any one person getting swine flu is 4.1106 x 10^-8. Or, if you like, a .0000041106% chance. If you apply that to the band trip, a trip which would have encompassed 170 people from Plano, and let us say...500 outside people? I think that's a rather liberal estimate for a trip in which we would have been sequestered in a condo resort and beach all weekend. But if we assume those estimates are reasonable, the chance of someone catching swine flu in that group jumps to .000027541, or .0027541%. The odds of dying in a car crash in 2006 was .0001538, or .01538%. If we apply those odds to 670 people, we realize that the odds of someone dying in a car crash on the band trip are .0876, or 8.76%. I don't recall you or your office banning cars or driving to school in 2006. The chances of dying while crossing the street are 1 in 48500, or .0000206. Applied to the whole band trip, that would be .003502, or .3502% chance that someone would be killed crossing the street while on the band trip.
Odds are, you did not bother to read that math, or at the very least, your eyes glazed over. I don't blame you, it was rather dry. Suffice it to say, you cancelled the band trip, a trip into which thousands of dollars had been sunk, hours of planning had gone, and a trip for which most of the band looked forward to all year--based on the chance of something happening that was more unlikely than someone being killed while crossing the street. I notice that you do not implement crossing guards at PSHS. I would have thought that would be a better, more cost-efficient, and less inconvenient option to reduce risk to the students of PISD.
I would also like to point out that no Americans have died of swine flu. The large number of deaths in Mexico can be attributed to Mexico's inferior health care system, and the one death that did occur within the US borders was the death of a 23 month old toddler (who, by virtue of his age, was already at a greatly increased risk from most disease), a toddler who was vacationing from Mexico, and who had flu-like symptoms before he and his parents left to vacation in Houston.
I also must take exception with Deputy Superintendent Jeff Bailey's letter regarding school trip cancellations. Why is it that swine flu is so serious that trips in and out of the district must be cancelled, yet gatherings of students not transported by district buses, such as "Banquets for student organizations that are held on and off campus," are allowed? Is it the actual school buses that are causing the swine flu? I do not understand why this distinction has been drawn. In addition, if this flu is so very dangerous that we simply cannot allow students to travel and come into contact with other people, why are the schools open at all? You have no control over the people the students come into contact with over the weekends, or outside of school, yet you allow every student to mingle with every other student, bringing in who knows what toxins to the school with them. It seems that if this behavior is acceptable, then going on a band trip should also be acceptable.

I also question your decision to close Wilson Middle School yet allow every other school to remain open. My sister has been attending a drum major clinic after school this week. At this clinic, she came into contact with students from several area schools, two of whom have siblings at Wilson. If swine flu is so virulent as to cause you to worry enough to cancel the band trip, it seems like it would very easily spread from someone who was exposed at Wilson, up to their siblings, and from there to me at PSHS. And that is in just one household! Imagine how many hundreds of such connections exist between people with siblings or friends at Wilson whom they see frequently, even daily! It seems that if you truly thought swine flu was so dangerous, the only policy that would truly address that threat would be to close down every school in the district and quarantine each student in their own homes, as every single school has been exposed, to one degree or another, to the possibility of swine flu, and every school is a breeding ground for sickness. Think of all the thousands of students coming into close contact, being sneezed on, coughed on, and otherwise exposed to the possibility of contagion every single day. If swine flu is truly as virulent as your actions seem to indicate, it is almost unconscionable for you to allow the schools to remain open.

Shame on you for not using logic, for not thinking critically, and for not learning any lessons from past years. It really is sad that you decided to cancel the band trip, and any other field trips, but what is sadder is the fact that you apparently have not learned any of the lessons you seek to impart on the students in your own district.

- Ben Barishman
Plano Senior High School 12th grade




Karinne said...


I want to dry hump this guy.

Christine said...

The fact that Ben Barishman was probs born in like, 1992 only makes it BETTER

ps hi frances! this is christine from high school i like yo blog a lot

jacie said...