I want to respond to Ms. Megan Irwin�s Article �Eurotrashed.� I was an adult on this trip who was not an official chaperone. We had 3 official chaperones, and three other adults. With the Passports guides that is 8 adults with 78 teens. I spent 28 days with these teens, Passports tour guides and the official Chaperones. I did not know Ms. DiMaggio before this experience. I am outraged by the inaccuracies in this article.
I think Passports has done a very good job at deflecting the focus from the inappropriate actions of their tour guide on to Ms. DiMaggio and the students. It was not a chaperone picked by Ms. DiMaggio who was dismissed for �offering a student psychedelic mushrooms�, but a tour guide for Passports. In addition, I witnessed other behaviors that caused me concern, and I explicitly expressed them to Passports management on two occasions. These other actions were left out of the article, and shuffled under the carpet. Another problem with the Passports tour guides and our teens not following directions was that both had strong accents it was difficult to hear them, and understand what they were saying. The teens would listen to them, but not understand what they were saying then be chastised for not following directions. I agree with the comments about unsafe hotels and Passports lack of concern for this issue.
I was the adult who cared for Jamie Bates most of the time we were in Europe. She was sick when we were in Europe, but it started out as a minor rash that escalated slowly into what I believe was a systemic allergic reaction to some new products she was using, and some medication a doctor in France prescribed for her. Jamie did not go to the state run hospital in France, I went there for a medical issue for myself and yes it was very dirty and I had difficulty finding anyone who spoke English. I called the doctor, was with Jamie when the doctor in France examined her at 1am in her hotel room, and paid the bill. He told me she had a skin infection, not a blood infection as reported in the article. The doctor in France spoke fluent English, and I had no difficulty understanding him. Jamie stated he had the worst breath she had ever smelled, but she understood what he said to her.
She continued to exhibit symptoms and she seemed to get worse, so in Germany Andy took her to the doctor. The very next day when she was not better and in pain, I am the one who took her to the hospital emergency room to see the doctor again because they had told her to come back if she was not better within 24 hours. She was never hospitalized in Europe. The female doctor in Germany did recommend she be admitted for 2 � 3 days, but after consulting her mother (who was working on a plan with her specialist in the US) the Mother & her allergist informed us we were not to admit her because it was not a life threatening reaction. They felt it was manageable without hospitalization. Her specialist then prescribed the course of treatment that ultimately cleared up the issue and made it so Jamie could continue on the trip. Angie DiMaggio was present for all these discussions, and she is the person who called Jamie�s mother on several occasions to discuss her daughter�s physical condition and mental state. Jamie�s mother made all the medical decisions based upon the knowledge of the specialist who has treated Jamie�s allergies for years. Jamie was very uncomfortable for a great deal of the trip, but the adults with her went to great effort to help with her medical issues. No one acted irresponsibly with her care, and I did for her what I would have done for my own daughter if she were in the same situation. Of course, she wanted to come home because it is miserable to be on the road and ill, but her parents would not allow us to send her home. We asked several times to send her home, but that request was denied so she continued with us. We did our best to care for her, and to make her as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. I can understand why her father was angry, but she in my opinion was treated well and got the proper medical care at each stage of her illness.
Your statement �binge drinking was constant� is not the truth. We had 78 teenagers with us on the trip, and I would say roughly 10 -12% (or 8 - 10 teens) were out to party all the time. However, that leaves 90% (or 68 - 70 teens) who wanted to go out once in a while and have fun, but were not binge drinking or falling down drunk. I feel you do a great disservice to those teens in the majority who were respectful and responsible by stating they were binge drinking constantly. Unfortunately, the 8 - 10 teens who were �out to party� give them all a bad name. Most of the negative instances reported in the article centered around this small group of teenagers who I venture a guess have behavior problems at home and at school.
The majority group participated in activities and really enjoyed their trip of a lifetime, although they were sometimes irritated by the other teens and embarrassed by their behavior. It is unfortunate the minority dampened the experience for all of us, however with the 1100 pictures I printed they did not dampen it much.
As far as the hotel damages were concerned, we asked for the hotels to detail for us the damages to their properties and they provided a list of three items damaged and the students assigned to those rooms so we could hold them responsible. The largest Euro item was a bed that had been moved not broken. In order to put 4 kids into a 2 kid space the hotel had erected an extra 2 beds out of wood. These beds were constructed with only two outer legs and an inner frame that rested on the adjoining bed for support. For the girls, it was not a big deal for their beds to be connected, but for the boys it was unacceptable. One boy separated the bed so he would not have to sleep so close to another. This kid was not a problem kid and one of the best behaved boys on our tour. He did not break the bed, and was falsely accused of it. In addition, the hotel said there were two oscillating fans (E45 each) that were damaged.
Upon investigating, we found out that one fan came apart when a girl tried to adjust it to point at the bed because she was hot since there was no a/c. She stated she could have put it back together if she had a screw driver since it was just a screw that was loose and came off, but she did not have one so she set it in the kitchen with the screw so it would not get lost and could be fixed. The other fan truly was broken. So when asked to provide detailed reports we determined the damages were about E45 or $60. This hardly qualifies as �extensive property damage.� We dropped this issue since we could not get a hotel to give us any substantial information to corroborate their statements. I feel we were such a large group (definitely too large) that most of these hotels were overwhelmed by us. Logistically, it was difficult to assemble the group and move quickly and also to keep the group quiet. Would I say some of the teens got noisy and a little obnoxious? Yes at times, but in general they were in control and respectful of others.
As far as what happened in Florence, it was truly devastating to have Evan hurt so badly. I do not know what could have been done to stop that from happening, and I firmly believe the fault lies with that Italian teen who decided to pick up that golf club. It is inexcusable to blame anyone other than him for his actions. He chose to pick that club up and at any time he could have stopped himself. From what I know, the account in the article is not accurate. It is too bad you did not investigate things further and speak with more reputable sources. Did it not occur to you it probably is not a good idea to rely on one of the self avowed �party girls?� It is admirable that the Bailey�s declined your request for an interview as I am sure they are busy helping their son recover.
Your article stated �they all maintain it was DiMaggio�s �culture of permissiveness� that led to Bailey�s hospitalization. Chaperones and parents who were on the trip agree.� I was not contacted, nor did I ever agree with that statement, yet clearly you have stated that I did agree to it. Carolyn Camp said it best at the end of the article, �Take a good look at your kid��
I do not condone underage drinking period, but we were in Europe and all of these kids except for one were of legal drinking age. Binge drinking is wrong and if my daughter acted like the 10% of the kids on this trip I would certainly intervene on her behalf and get her some help. However, for those parents out there who do not know if your kid behaved well on this trip or not. Rest assured if your kid had serious issues with alcohol you would already know it because you would have seen it at school and home. I would travel with 90% of these teens again.
As for Ms. DiMaggio, I saw her drink � a beer and one glass of wine in total in 28 days. She does not even really drink for health reasons, and she certainly does not do any drugs. So when she says she wants to �party� with the teens she means dance and have a good time the old fashioned way. I am amazed this is the thanks she gets for her 37 years of dedicated service to our children? I guess she will just have to settle for the years of overcompensation in pay.