Longform

After the fall

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"I am trying to honor my son's memory with my actions. They just tried to appease me and forget about it as soon as possible. Nothing happened. Nothing changed."

DISD policy prevents school officials from talking about pending litigation, according to DISD spokesman Loretta Simon. But the fact is that the DISD's field-trip policy is much less stringent than other districts. Both Fort Worth and Houston independent school districts have elaborate guidelines governing the safety and welfare of students on field trips. Houston's policy, for example, is eight pages long and, among other things, sets a minimum requirement of chaperones (a 1-to-10 ratio in high school). It also stipulates that sponsors should "accompany the group to, from, and during the function" and that chaperones are to be on duty and supervising at location of students at all times during the trip.

Fort Worth's guidelines are equally lengthy and detailed. They set a ratio of chaperones to students; stipulate that students will stay in a group with the assigned chaperone; and state that the principal may not approve special activities considered to be high-risk.

Other than the firing of Bloomfield, the DISD board never even considered adopting any of the policy recommendations, according to former board secretary Bob Johnston, who still oversees policy for the district. "There was never anything presented to the board as far as changes to my knowledge," Johnston says. "What should have happened was that Robert Payton, head of school operations, would have made a recommendation to change the policy. If the board approved it, it would have gone back to Payton for a rewrite of policy. It may never have gotten to Payton in the first place. Two years ago, we were in the middle of the [former Superintendent Yvonne] Gonzalez mess, and communications were rather screwed up."

On the anniversary of Colt's death, Perryman returned to Big Bend with his son Cain, who is the same age Colt was when he died. They passed a Boy Scout troop that had all managed to stay together on the trail. About 400 feet before the end of the trail, Emory Peak emerges from the trees. Cain fell to the ground, sobbing and exhausted.

"I washed his face with water and comforted him," Perryman says. "When I told my wife, she said it was just like Colt. If I had been there with him, if someone had been there for him, things would have been different."

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Ann Zimmerman