There are lessons for K-12 schools in the report by Witt Associates on the August 13 State Fair tragedy. The State Fair grandstand concert presented risks similar to spring school activities such as baseball games, baccalaureate and graduation, and fall activities such as football, homecoming bonfires (a huge separate risk), and practice for the State Fair Band Contest. In the mid 1990’s, we urged clients to be prepared to recognize the subtle signals of the probability of lightening at outdoor events. In 2010, we advised clients about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s order implementing the “Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act”. In that legislation, Congress responded to the death of the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III. In that tragedy, the suction of a pool drain held the Baker child on the bottom of the pool. Congress mandated action by the Consumer Product Safety Commission requiring pool drain covers that would prevent similar tragedies. In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly mandated standards for dealing with student concussions in high school intramural and interscholastic sports, see Ind. Code 20-34-7.
In the Witt Associates report on the State Fair tragedy, by page 3, it is clear that very good and caring people were unsure who had authority to act and lost a brief opportunity to avoid the tragedy. With benefit of hindsight, that situation required minute by minute weather updates and a single decision-maker authorized to take immediate action, rather than call a meeting. School administrators can learn lessons from problems that occur elsewhere. So we encourage school officials to look at page 3 of the Witt Associates report to see what can be applied to their activities. The report is in the public domain, and easy to obtain thanks to The Indianapolis Star. Go to: http://www.indystar.com/assets/pdf/BG187902412.PDF