CINCINNATI - Be smart and be safe.
That’s the message to hundreds of Winton Woods students heading to prom Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium, as well to as other students around the Tri-State.
They’ll be on the roads knowing about the pre-prom crash a week ago that killed a Monroe High School teen.
“Being an educator, our hearts always goes out when things happen to young people, said Winton Woods Principal Eric Martin.
The crash that involved four Monroe students ”hit very close to home,” said Assistant Principal Princess Crenshaw. “It was right up the highway.”
Winton Woods staff spent the week cautioning students to make good decisions. They want all of them back – safe and sound – for school on Monday.
“Three tenets that we stand by are trust, respect, responsibility,” said Martin. “So that’s part of everything that we do.”
To drive home the point, the school partnered with AAA to have students sign prom promises that they would not drink and drive.
Leila Adams, a senior, wanted to spread the word that texting and driving is a potentially fatal distraction.
“Even one second off the road can end your life or somebody else’s in the car, and it’s not worth it,” Adams said.
There was even a mock crash at Winton Woods with plenty of staged theatrics. One student “victim” was put into the back of a hearse. Another was airlifted.
“We tried to make it really real for them,” Crenshaw said.
Educators know they can preach expectations, but the students will determine whether the lessons are learned.
“With every opportunity comes a million choices a young person can make,” Martin said, “so we’re always cognizant about having those conversations about making great choices.”
“It is a fun occasion,” Crenshaw said of prom, “but we want them to make smart choices and return to us on Monday.”
No doubt there will be lots of anxious parents waiting for their sons and daughters to come home safely.
No doubt parents talked to them about the Monroe crash.
They probably reminded drivers that careless driving not only carries the risk of death and injury but also the possibility of criminal charges.
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser is going to have to make a decision very soon on whether to file charges in the Monroe High crash. Four friends heading to dinner before prom were in the Tesla speeding along Millikin Road, officials said, when the driver lost control.
The car crashed near Butler Warren Road, killing 17-year-old Kaylie Jackson, who was ejected from the vehicle.
Gmoser said a number of factors have to be considered for possible charges:
What were the circumstances of the crash? How did it happen? Was speed involved? Was alcohol involved? Were drugs involved? Was a distracted driver from a cell phone or texting involved?
Investigators have already said speed was a factor. The car’s black box is being examined to see how fast it was going.
“It’s not just speed alone that has to be considered in a case,” Gmoser said. “It has to be the other factors. Loss of control can be one of those factors in addition to speed.“
Charges could be as severe as aggravated vehicular homicide.
Sgt. Melissa Gerhardt of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office has this advice for any teen driving to prom:
“Don’t mess with the radio when you’re driving. Don’t be on your cell phone. Turn if off. Don’t just turn it down where it will vibrate. Turn it off so you’re not tempted to look at it, And slow down,” Gerhardt said.
Gmoser knows what parents are feeling and thinking.
“I expect that every parent tonight going to a prom or seeing their child off to a prom will be giving them a hug and a warning,” Gmoser said. “They will want to know who’s driving, what’s their history. They all want to know that those seatbelt are fastened. They will be insistent on that.”
Meanwhile, the visitation for Kaylie Jackson will be Sunday at Liberty Heights Church.