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Nearly 50 years ago, my mother was a school chaperone on a few local trips with my classmates and me.

When newspaper stories appeared in the early 1970s about chaperoned trips that went wrong, she decided to stop supervising school outings. She said there were too many unknowns and that parents might sue her and the other chaperones if something went wrong.

My mother told me that chaperoning children was an onerous responsibility, even if it had its enjoyable moments. School chaperones have to consider their charges as their own offspring.

What was true 50 years ago is even truer today.

The following are what I would consider to be 21st chaperone guidelines:

1/ Schools should choose a Mr Buzzkill and a Ms Boring.

2/ One of them should be reasonably well acquainted with local and state laws.

3/ One of them should be proficient in self-defence, either physically or verbally.

4/ One of them needs to be streetwise and anticipate adverse situations.

5/ Occupations of potentially good 21st century chaperones, in addition to a street-smart teacher, include: retired lawyer, military veteran, retired law enforcement officer, PE teacher.

6/ Teachers should begin laying down the law to students going on a trip a few days beforehand. Main messages (from my own schooldays):

a/ No calling attention to — ‘making a spectacle of’ — oneself.

b/ Assume that what is acceptable behaviour at school or at home is unacceptable in other places.

c/ No arguments with anyone, especially strangers.

d/ No fights with anyone, especially strangers.

e/ If your chaperone tells you to do something, do it. It’s for your own safety.

7/ On the day, at the start of the trip, chaperones should repeat the points in item 6 to their charges.

8/ Chaperones should remember that they can never be too careful, especially these days.

9/ Have solid, well rehearsed plans in place for various adverse scenarios — including rapid reaction in order to protect students.

Last Friday, January 18, 2018, an unfortunate incident happened, involving a group of students from Kentucky who took part in the March for Life in Washington, DC.

The incident should serve as a warning to current and potential chaperones.

The best — and earliest — account of what happened to Covington Catholic High School students appeared in Reason on Sunday, March 20: ‘The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students Confronting a Native American Veteran – Hit and Run’ by Robby Soave.

Lesson for faculty and chaperones

Soave’s message to faculty — and, indirectly, chaperones — is this (emphases mine below):

Unless other information emerges, the school’s best move would be to have a conversation with the boys about the incident, perhaps discuss some strategies for remaining on perfect behavior at highly charged political rallieswhere everybody is recording everything on a cell phone—and let that be the end of it.

Absolutely.

What sentient adult American today is unaware of the political tension, including violence, taking place not only in the nation’s capital, but also in other cities, e.g. Portland?

It is the responsibility of faculty and chaperones to explain to students that going outside their comfort zones, especially to a big city, is fraught with unknown variables, even violence. Therefore: keep a low profile at all times.

What happened

Soave’s article reproduces Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann’s testimony in full. Excerpts follow:

I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me.

I am the student in the video who was confronted by the Native American protestor. I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial at 4:30 p.m. I was told to be there by 5:30 p.m., when our busses were due to leave Washington for the trip back to Kentucky. We had been attending the March for Life rally, and then had split up into small groups to do sightseeing.

When we arrived, we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group.

The protestors said hateful things. They called us “racists,” “bigots,” “white crackers,” “faggots,” and “incest kids.” They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would “harvest his organs.” I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.

Because we were being loudly attacked and taunted in public, a student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group. The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school. Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants. We would not have done that without obtaining permission from the adults in charge of our group.

Big mistake! The chaperone never should have given a group of teenagers permission to start acting as if they were at a school sporting event!

Then, a Native American activist, identified as Nathan Phillips, approached:

After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protestors, who I hadn’t previously noticed, approached our group. The Native American protestors had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera.

The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.

I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.

I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.

During the period of the drumming, a member of the protestor’s entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we “stole our land” and that we should “go back to Europe.” I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions.

I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.

The engagement ended when one of our teachers told me the busses had arrived and it was time to go. I obeyed my teacher and simply walked to the busses. At that moment, I thought I had diffused the situation by remaining calm, and I was thankful nothing physical had occurred.

I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.

Yes, which is why the faculty and chaperone(s) should have explained the atmosphere in Washington DC in school before the trip and on the day of the trip, as soon as everyone boarded the bus.

Granting permission to recite school chants unleashed the law of unintended consequences — the media and others on the Left as well as the Right drew their own conclusions the following day.

The students in the videos — as well as their families — have been living a nightmare since then that not even a scriptwriter for the old series The Twilight Zone could have imagined:

I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me – to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.

I harbor no ill will for this person. I respect this person’s right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week. I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make …

I have read that Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines. I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a U.S. Marine veteran.

I can only speak for myself and what I observed and felt at the time. But I would caution everyone passing judgement based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.

I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.

Saturday’s nightmare

On Saturday, March 19, social media went wild over videos of the incident.

Clicking on this tweet will show an entire thread of various alarming reactions interspersed with messages of support. That day, the Gateway Pundit reported that Covington Catholic was doxxed (the tweet is still in my previous link in this paragraph), as was the student. Out of common decency, the article did not mention him by name.

Would you believe that a tweet that doxxed Nick Sandmann is still on Twitter? Here is an indirect link to it.

At least one Democrat legislator tweeted their outrage that day. Another chimed in on Sunday, referring to the group of Covington Catholic students in MAGA hats:

The AP reported that the Diocese of Covington quickly issued an apology to the Native American, Nathan Phillips, and launched an investigation into the students’ behaviour.

More Covington Catholic students — and their families — were harassed that day. Here is one student’s testimony.

The Gateway Pundit reported that one online news outlet doxxed the school and another outlet reported that the students would be expelled.

Another student felt compelled to give a detailed account of what happened at the Lincoln Memorial. His testimony mentioned more lengthy videos of the students during the incident.

Independent journalist Tim Pool watched a two-hour video:

The Gateway Pundit reported on the longer videos, which showed that the supposed narrative of the students harassing the veteran was clearly wrong.

Actor and comedian Terrence K. Williams rightly pointed out the toxic hypocrisy of those attacking Covington students online:

I will have more on this topic next week.

Conclusion

One week on, and Covington Catholic students and their families are experiencing the unimaginable which could have potential far-reaching effects for some of them personally, not only now, but also in the years to come.

Chaperones — wherever you are and whoever you are in the world — please take every precaution when taking minors on a school trip.

And please do not allow them to recite school chants or engage in any similar behaviour that could attract trouble or national, if not worldwide, attention.

The world is a dangerous place.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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