Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

High school declines to publish report of choking game victim from Lawrence

March 21, 2006


A Lawrence teenager's death is causing a stir in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this month, leaders at Canon-McMillan High School in suburban Pittsburgh blocked publication of a student reporter's story on the dangers of playing the "pass out game."

Much of the story focused on Kimberly "Kimber" Wilson, a freshman at Veritas Christian School, who was found dead last August in her west Lawrence bedroom, a plastic-coated bicycle chain wrapped around her neck.

"I wrote the article because kids already know about the game - they think it's cool," said Danielle Hibler, a 15-year-old reporter on the Canon-McMillan Times.

Hibler said school authorities spiked the story because they thought it might cause other students to try the game.

"I was told (administrators) were afraid of copycats and that they might get sued," Hibler said.

Tim Wilson, father of Kimberly Wilson, and his wife, Carol, are working to raise awareness of a "pass out game" that&squot;s popular with teens but proved fatal to their daughter. Recently a Pennsylvania school prevented publication of a story about the game.

Tim Wilson, father of Kimberly Wilson, and his wife, Carol, are working to raise awareness of a "pass out game" that's popular with teens but proved fatal to their daughter. Recently a Pennsylvania school prevented publication of a story about the game.

The decision not to run the story has triggered a debate in Pennsylvania over students' First Amendment rights.

School leaders aren't happy. "This has been blown way out of proportion," said Canon-McMillan principal Linda Nichols. "The story wasn't run because it wasn't complete, it didn't cite sources and the (faculty) sponsor hadn't proofed it yet."

Hibler disagreed. "That's completely false; that's not what I was told," she said. "My teacher looked at it - that was my fourth or fifth draft. I cited my sources."

Coincidentally, the day Hibler learned she had been censored, a 13-year-old boy in nearby Mount Lebanon, Pa., died while playing the choking game.

"That's when I e-mailed the (Pittsburgh) Post-Gazette to see if they'd help out," said Hibler's father, Dean Hibler.

"We're to the point now where we don't care how the word gets out, we just want it out," Dean Hibler said. "Kids think this is a cheap way to get high that's legal."

Kimber's parents, Tim and Carol Wilson, said they didn't understand the reluctance to discuss the game's consequences.

"We've run into this ourselves," Tim Wilson said. "People think if you raise awareness, more kids will try it. Our experience has been just the opposite. Kids are doing it now. If they understood the dangers, they would be less likely to do it."

Wilson said he and his wife were convinced Kimber would not have played the game if she had understood the potential harm.

Wilson praised Lawrence High School's newspaper, The Budget, for publishing a story on their daughter's death.

"They did a terrific job," he said.

No one at LHS doubted whether to run the story.

"In Kansas, student editors maintain content control. We're different from most states," said LHS journalism teacher Heather Lawrenz. "Our editors thought it was an important issue, and the Wilson family wanted to get the word out. It wasn't controversial."

Correction: originally, this story referred to "Canton-McMillian High School in suburban Pittsburgh." The name of the school is "Canon-McMillan."


KateB 12 years, 2 months ago

I am also the parent of a child who thought playing the choking game was a safe idea. My son Dylan's death on October 7th 2005 could have been avoided had I the oppurtunity to talk to him about how fatal the choking game is. I had never heard of the 'game'. I never got the chance that Mr & Mrs Wilson and Danielle are trying to afford every parent and child. And I join them in urgently cautioning parents by facilitating the Dylan Blake Foundation for Adolescent Behaviors. We, as parents, teach our children about the dangers of many activities from the time they are toddlers: wear a helmet bike riding, look both ways before crossing the street, drinking, drugs, sex, and the list goes on. Why in the world would we avoid teaching them the dangers of an activity the kids consider safe?

Parents, children are dying unknowingly and unexpectedly because noone is telling them that the Choking Game is much more dangerous than 'just passing out'. Children are dying because 75% of them feel this is not drugs, not illegal, and a 'safe' activity to partake in. Meanwhile only 25% of parents are aware of the game and it's consequences. Are you willing to gamble your child's life that your child may be in the 25% not knowing of it? From a parent who now can only long to kiss her son on the cheek every night as I tuck him in - I wouldn't take those odds and not have the discussion with my child.

Be informed- educate yourself and those around you!

Kate Blake Founder/Advocate The Dylan Blake Foundation

hip_gma 12 years, 2 months ago

The school's afraid of copycats? What about the copycat school shootings? The media releases those stories and other negative stories that are full of possibilities for copycats.

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

What a tragic loss. My sympathies to you KateB, and also to the Wilsons.

This game isn't new. People did it at Rocky Horror a few times when Rocky was still at Oak Park Mall (I haven't been in 10+ years, so thennish), and I knew some kids in high school who did it because it was 'safer than smoking pot'. It was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now.

Teaching kids about this isn't going to encourage them to do it. I can't believe that a school would want to try to pretend it wasn't happening to avoid being sued 'just in case' instead of trying to get education out there and let kids know people are dying from this.

mztrendy 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm a 23 year old who also played this game about 12 years ago, because we didn't realize that dangers or the consequences.

Confrontation 12 years, 2 months ago

Unrealistic parents lead to uneducated kids. This is just like the current debate over sex education. If we don't teach them about it, then they'll never do. It is a stupid viewpoint.

mlemiller 12 years, 2 months ago

I also did a version of this when I was a kid (about 11 years old), and there is no way I would have ever tried it if I would have known how dangerous it was. To adults it seems like common sense, but to me as a kid it just seemed like a silly game. So I agree, kids have to know it could kill them.

trinity 12 years, 2 months ago

kids are forcefully spoon fed all about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, sex, fast cars, riding a bicycle without a helmet, and a host of other "dangers"; why the H not this??? gawd...what hypocrites there are in society.

Jamesaust 12 years, 2 months ago

Frankly, in this 21st century Internet age, the idea of being able to censor what students say to each other and the larger community is silly.

Schools need to focus their attention on preempting irresponsible reporting by aiding students to 'occupy the field' with good reporting first.

Good reporting drives out bad reporting.

Celeste Plitz 12 years, 2 months ago

It's like huffing-a lot of kids consider that harmless too, but it's extremely dangerous. Teaching kids that these things can cause death or grievous bodily harm is the responsible way to handle it. If they don't know, then how can they make the right decision? If the only info they get is from their friends or the internet, how is that protecting them? That school in Pennsylvania is out of line, preventing that story from being published. But frankly, they've probably gotten a lot more publicity then they would have gotten if they'd just let the story be published in the first place. I know when my kids are ready (they're not in school yet) I will make sure they know the dangers of both of those behaviours. My sincere sympathies are with those parents who have lost your children, and have the courage to educate other parents about huffing and the choking game. I want to let you know that your losses have reached at least one pair of parents and we're taking it to heart. Thank you.

Harry_Manback 12 years, 2 months ago

People think this is a new fad, but we played it when I was in middle school 9 years ago. I just love it when older people and the media jump on these "fads" that have actually been a part of youth culture for quite some time. I see no harm in warning other kids about the dangers because it's obviously not going to go away unless it's publicized more.

Linda Endicott 12 years, 2 months ago

Maybe that's the whole point, Harry...if it had been publicized a long time ago, more parents would know about it, and try to educate the kids about it.

I had no idea this was even going on until a few months ago. So not only do you have to tell the kids how dangerous it is, you have to tell the parents that the "game" even exists.

ymi 10 years ago

If someone believes that people come to some in dreams after death, then let me know or post a comment on the subject, as crazy as it may seem, Kimber has been in alot of my dreams, and for some reason I had to find out who she was, then I saw her, everything about her, I contacted her parents because I believed she is trying to say something, if there is a friend named Lauren, comment back, I dont want to upset anyone and do not mean any disrespect, but there is alot going on here, I believe there is a man who may understand, i wish all this was a joke but its not, and maybe a young boy whom she had a crush on for a while that was forbidden...... Her death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to all that loved and lost this girl.......

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