School's hayride response criticized


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 10:01 p.m.
Two parents of Westwood Middle School students injured during a hayride at Camp Crystal Lake on Tuesday are upset with how school officials handled the incident.
Kathy Houser and Karen Scheiffle, whose daughters suffered minor injuries in the accident, said they are disappointed that school officials did not notify parents whose children were injured but not hospitalized.
"The kids were supposed to be back at 5:30 and they didn't get back until 6:30, and they (administrators) didn't say one word," said Houser, who said her 13-year-old daughter was hit in the back when one of the railings came off the side of the trailer, and who also suffered a hand injury and scrapes on her knees.
"They're standing in front of the office and never made an announcement," she said.
Westwood Principal Jim TenBieg said he spoke to parents when they arrived to pick up their children from 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"Did I go from car to car? No, I did not," TenBieg said. "Was I standing out there? Yes, I was. But we were standing out there talking to parents apprising them of the situation."
The incident happened about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, when 24 Westwood students fell off a flatbed trailer that tipped over during a hayride at the camp, near Keystone Heights, which is an outdoor education center owned by the Alachua County School Board in Clay County. Two students airlifted to area hospitals because of possible head injuries were released on Wednesday, officials said.
According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, a total of 14 other students were injured and taken to area hospitals with minor injuries. They were released on Tuesday, said School Board officials.
"The staff that was out there and the paramedics prevented a terrible situation from becoming a horrific situation," TenBieg said.
Westwood Assistant Principal Mike Gamble, who was at the scene, said he prioritized who to call based on the seriousness of the injuries.
After the paramedics arrived and decided which students needed to be transported, Gamble said the parents of those students became "our main priority."
"You've got to prioritize," Gamble said. "With the 150 kids (on the field trip), you can't call them all. You've got to be realistic."
Scheiffle and Houser said their daughters and other students on the hayride also are not happy that they are being accused of contributing to the accident. According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, the driver swerving, inappropriate equipment and misbehaving students were all factors in causing the accident.
"Most of the kids are highly incensed because they were not misbehaving," Scheiffle said. "They were all told that if they misbehaved they would be thrown off."
Scheiffle said she understands that accidents happen, "but as a parent I should be notified. If something happens, I want to know about it."
Cathi Carr can be reached at 374-5086 or carrc@ gvillesun.com

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