A St. Paul high school left a student standing outside for ten minutes last week, in sub-freezing Minnesota February temperatures, wet and wearing only a swimsuit.
Fourteen-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz reports that she now has frostbite. Her sacrifice enabled Como Park High School to conduct an unplanned fire drill without violating a school fraternization rule.
Wednesday morning, as Twin City temperatures ranged from a low of negative 8 degrees to a high of 12 degrees Fahrenheit, the Como Park High freshman, along with a classmate, were in the school’s pool when the fire alarm went off. The classmate’s clothes were poolside; but Hagen-Tietz’s clothes were in her locker and she was blocked from retrieving them by a teacher who rushed her out of the building.
Wearing nothing but a towel and her bathing suit, Hagen-Tietz stood outside with her fellow students as administrators determined what triggered the alarm. Gopher State schools generally do not conduct fire drills during the winter months. WCCO reports that smoke from a “science experiment” set off the alarm.
In the meantime, teachers feared to violate openly a school policy that prohibits students from sitting in a faculty member’s car.
Hagen-Tietz fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and and some frigid classmates, giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.
After Hagen-Tietz had suffered for ten minutes in sub-zero weather, a teacher finally received administrative permission to let her sit inside her car until students were allowed back inside.
Eva Tietz, the shivering student’s mother, told WCCO that a doctor discovered frostbite on Hagen-Tietz’s feet. The freshman will need to take pain medications.
“Immediately, when they had seen that, they should have had some kind of protocol,” Tietz tells National Review Online, adding that while she understands the need to evacuate students as a precaution, she objects to the follow-up. Tietz notes that her daughter could have also been allowed to go in to an elementary school across the street to get out of the cold. Had she let her own daughter stand outside in the cold weather, Tietz points out, she would probably have faced stiff legal charges.
St. Paul Public Schools released a statement saying the district will continue to “regularly review its procedures” with the city’s fire marshal, and will make changes where they see fit. Tietz wants an apology from the school and recommends Como Park High revisit its policies to prevent similar lapses in judgment.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.