eniors at Langley High School recently had an opportunity to explore their ethics and morals through a day of presentations and discussions on ethical dilemmas. Members of the community at large, businesses, civic organizations and legal professionals all came together at the USA Today/Gannett headquarters in McLean last week to allow students to explore their decision-making process and the consequences of their decisions.
“The community feels it’s important to have ethical training. It opens their eyes to knowing that now, and when they get out of school, they will have ethical decisions to make every day,” said PTA member Demetra Matthews.
“We want them to be exposed to a variety of ethical issues that will inform their choices now and in the future,” teacher Elaine Russ said.
Langley seniors participated in four modules during the forum. Judge Gayle Carr of Fairfax County Juvenile Domestic Relations Court presided over a mock trial, while attorney Matthew Brennan (who helped develop the Ethics Day program at other area schools) used the case of “The Bad Samaritan” to quiz children on how they would respond to a deadly situation, to cheating at school, and the wrenching decision of who should receive a life-saving transplant. Each scenario was used to force students to get in tune with how they would act.
LANGLEY ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL Rob Sanders said, “Hopefully they get out of it an understanding of their own value system, because that controls the decisions they make. It’s something that will guide them in their decisions in the future.
“The dilemmas we’re posing to them cause an emotional reaction, so this is an opportunity for them to discuss a decision that has both emotion in it, morality and belief issues. They can discuss it with their peers, which they usually don’t get a chance to do.”
Senior Daniel Rosen said, “It’s important to be ethical but sensible. To actually think before you do things and to try to be empathetic also.”
Judge Carr said that’s exactly the reaction the facilitators had hoped for. “They start to think about how their decisions can affect their lives on a short- and long-term basis.”
Brennan added, “It’s a great experience. It’s important for adults to demonstrate to students that ethics is important. Some people don’t [think so], and I think that’s one of the reasons we have the problems in business, the Enrons, that we do. We need people to step up and say to them that we need to think about it.”
During the “Bad Samaritan” module, students viewed a televised segment of the story of David Cash. Cash stood by and said nothing while his best friend raped and murdered a 7-year-old girl while the pair were vacationing in Las Vegas. Cash was not prosecuted for letting the crime happen.
Seniors pondered the decision made by Cash to determine what they would have done in his shoes. Brennan said it’s a positive thing that the students came up with a variety of solutions to the dilemma. Their answers ranged from “it was the father of the deceased girl’s fault for allowing the child to be unsupervised late at night in a casino,” to “the pressure might have been overwhelming,” to “he was wrong for being in the situation in the first place.”
“There are a lot of different answers, and hopefully they do come up with different answers. We purposefully pose questions with different answers,” said Brennan.
The students, Matthews said, also recognized the importance of exploring their ethical decision making. They had a 98-percent attendance rate with the majority of absences being prescheduled.