When Jamie Bates boarded Delta Flight 86 bound for London, she was excited and a little nervous. She'd just graduated and was about to set off on the trip of a lifetime: 28 days in Europe with 80 current and former Dobson High School students. Her family paid more than $5,000 for the trip, led by Angie DiMaggio, a longtime Dobson teacher who had led such tours many times.
As she settled in for the long flight, Bates tried to relax. She already missed her boyfriend, but she was looking forward to the chance to have fun before starting college.
In less than an hour, she realized she'd made a huge mistake.
student trips abroad
By the time she arrived home on June 25, Bates wished she'd never gone. She'd been treated for a nasty blood infection, berated by her leader, and she'd stayed in a string of hotels that were anything but the three- and four-star lodgings she thought her parents had paid for.
But Jamie Bates, a waif-like, saucer-eyed 18-year-old who works at her dad's fence-building company and attends community college (she plans to major in psychology), was lucky. As she shuffled off the plane at Sky Harbor, she was wounded physically and emotionally but at least she was still standing. Her classmate Evan Bailey wasn't so lucky. He lay fighting for his life in an Italian hospital after taking a golf club to the head during a bar brawl in Florence that left him comatose and possibly brain-damaged.
Bates and Bailey got the worst of it, but bad things happened on the trip, from beginning to end.
Instead of tales about the Louvre and Michelangelo's David, the kids came home with stories about a hotel in Paris where students didn't feel safe leaving their rooms, and another in Venice where a used condom and blood were found in the supposedly fresh sheets.
According to several kids, meals often were inedible. The air conditioner on one of the tour buses broke down on one of the hottest days of the year in Rome. Binge drinking was constant.
A chaperone was told to leave the trip for allegedly offering psychedelic mushrooms to students, while another was kicked off, and possibly deported from Italy, under more mysterious circumstances.
At one point, the trip sponsor, Passports Inc., a Massachusetts-based courier that runs hundreds of international trips each year, contemplated sending the whole group home early.
It was only when two of DiMaggio's chaperones stepped up to lead the trip, replacing her, that the company changed its mind.
The scene, as Bates and her classmates passed through the gate and into their parents' arms, was grim. And angry.
Most of the kids weren't happy. They were just relieved to be home.
Nadea Tanzadeh, another student on the trip, agrees with Bates that it wasn't what she expected.
"Our trip turned to hell," she says. "It wasn't our fun Europe trip. It was our 'When can we go home?' trip."
Every summer, thousands of students across the U.S. take trips around the world. Most of them don't make the headlines. Aside from the case of Natalie Holloway, who remains missing after a 2005 senior trip to Aruba, an in-depth search of news archives revealed only one death: a student who drowned in a lake in Fort Worth, Texas. Teachers lead groups everywhere from Disneyland to Europe, from Mexico to Japan. Student travel is often sold to parents as a cultural experience a way for students to enrich their course of study and to receive academic credit.
But the reality is, these trips are often run outside of school district boundaries and rules. Teachers organize them, but they are doing so as individuals, not school employees, and, in Angie DiMaggio's case, clearly without enough adult supervision.
After 14 years, DiMaggio's trips had a reputation. Though parents might not have been aware, it was well known among Dobson High kids that this was the kind of vacation on which underage students could drink freely. In fact, before the trip, DiMaggio even had parents sign a waiver so that their kids could drink in Europe (where the drinking age is 16 in some countries and 18 in others) though parents say she told them it was to allow for a glass of wine at dinner, not a night out at the club. She says that if parents didn't sign the waiver, the student would not be allowed to drink.
"It's 21 here, but it's 18 and 16 there, and they don't check, so we have to have an understanding," DiMaggio says. "I told parents everything in regards to this. We are not going to stay in hotel rooms at night. We're going to go out. That's the fun of this. You can't pound kids with facts and history and museums for 15 hours a day."
(For weeks, DiMaggio denied requests for an interview for this story. Several days before publication, she agreed to sit down for more than an hour, with her lawyer present.)
By all accounts, DiMaggio was lucky. She was permissive but never ran trips that went awry.
The summer of 2007 was different. The group was one of her largest ever. She went with a tour company she'd never used before. There were only three chaperones in addition to her, a ratio of one chaperone to about 20 kids.
DiMaggio contends the student-adult ratio was fine. She points out that, in addition to herself and the three chaperones she brought, there were also three parents on the trip. However, she also admits, those parents were supposed to be on vacation, not playing babysitter.
Things got out of control fast, and people got hurt. Evan Bailey was almost killed. Jamie Bates was hospitalized. Another girl's foot was run over by a taxi in France, and in Germany, a boy punched out a car window. Kids drank themselves almost to the point of alcohol poisoning. Hotels reported a lot of property damage.
Passports was responsible for providing meals, transportation, and tour guides, but DiMaggio chose her chaperones: Andrew Morrissey, a family friend who is an EMT and a nursing student; William Dunshee, a former high school principal from Minnesota; and Dobson High security guard Lori McPherren. (Dunshee and McPherren are siblings.)
DiMaggio did not perform background checks on her chaperones. "Why would I have to?" she asks. But Morrissey has a criminal record. (Dunshee, McPherren, and DiMaggio do not, according to a search of Maricopa County Superior Court records and records in Minnesota, where Dunshee lives.)
DiMaggio says she was unaware of Morrissey's troubled past, which includes a conviction a decade ago for trying to write a check from someone else's account, an arrest in the alleged sale of cocaine to an undercover police officer, and, according to court records, a history of meth and marijuana abuse. But she says that doesn't change her opinion of him.
"That wouldn't have made a difference to me," she says. "A lot of our kids do things when they're young. That doesn't mean anything when they get older. So, no, I wasn't aware of that, but he was the most responsible person I had on the tour. The only thing he's guilty of is that he completely knocked himself out." (Morrissey did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.)
DiMaggio, a teacher so beloved by her students that they called her "Mamma D," denies responsibility for the problems on the trip, blaming Passports Inc. for the trouble. Passports admits there were some problems with hotels particularly the dirty one in Venice but contends that its main responsibility was to provide tour guides and figure out logistics. Discipline was DiMaggio's job.
She says she relied more on trusting her relationship with the kids than policing them constantly.
"There's a trust. They would tell me [what they were up to]. They listen to me, and I value that," DiMaggio says. "I'm honest with them and they need to be honest with me."
While she was more permissive than a lot of parents, and certainly more permissive than another tour leader New Times interviewed for this story, DiMaggio makes it clear that she cares about the kids, and says she would have done anything for them. She feels she was made a scapegoat by Passports and says the company didn't like her because she stood up for herself and her students.
"I argued with them (Passports) and I became 'that teacher.' Herein lies the problem. I knew what they were supposed to get, and I knew what they weren't getting," she says. "I said, 'You're f-ing my kids and me,' and because I used the f-word, they used that against me."
But others on the trip have a different version of events.
In researching this story, New Times spent hours speaking with four students and five parents, one of whom was on the trip, as well as one of DiMaggio's handpicked chaperones. Representatives from Passports and its European affiliates were also interviewed, as were representatives from the Florence police department and the U.S. State Department. In addition, e-mails exchanged among hotels, couriers, parents, and Passports were reviewed.
Each e-mail reviewed and each person interviewed even those who support DiMaggio illustrates a trip gone completely out of control.
Nadea Tanzadeh, who shared her trip journal with New Times, mentions binge drinking in almost every entry. (The students interviewed on the record all confirmed there was drinking every night and that it was not monitored.)
An entry from the second day: "We got faded. It was fantastic. Everyone was out pretty much all night." A couple of days later: "I ended up hanging out in the hotel bar . . . I opened a tab and just ordered drinks until I couldn't read anymore."
DiMaggio argues the drinking was monitored. She says it's silly to expect kids to stay in their hotel rooms every night, and that those who chose to go out were chaperoned by Morrissey. Students say he was often just as drunk as they were. DiMaggio is reluctant to talk much about her chaperone.
"This is about me and not Andy Morrissey," she says. "He was going out with them at night, but you know, was I supposed to tell him only to have one beer? I don't know. But in my presence, he was responsible and he was alert. He was never not responsible and I'm going to leave it at that."
The trouble started before they even got to Europe. As soon as their connecting flight took off from Cincinnati, one student pulled out a gallon of Jack Daniel's purchased at the terminal's duty-free shop. The flight attendants wouldn't serve the underage students because it was an American-based flight. When the flight attendants noticed the bottle, they took it away immediately, but some students were already drunk, according to Bates, Tanzadeh, Dunshee, and another student, Katana White.
The plane ride across the Atlantic got so rowdy that the pilot threatened to land in Newfoundland and send the students back to America.
William Dunshee, one of DiMaggio's chaperones, couldn't believe what he was seeing. He says his sister, Lori McPherren, tried to take control of the situation. When she woke DiMaggio to tell her what was going on, Dunshee says DiMaggio told her, "Don't be a cop."
DiMaggio says she doesn't remember saying this and that she did everything she could to settle the kids down.
The partying continued until the students wore themselves out. They landed in London, greeting their Passports tour guides bleary-eyed and hung-over.
Bates and other students recall that their first impression of the Passports guides, Nicholas Wilson and Ruben Lenguas, was good. They went over policies and procedures, and the students quickly realized Passports wouldn't tolerate excessive drinking.
Michael Forhan, director of corporate development for Passports, says the company's tour guides are subject to only minimal background checks.
"Usually, they're people we know. Word of mouth is big in this field," he says. "We have never done criminal background checks because of the close-knit [hiring pool]."
Still, the guides were quick to lay down the law. Katana White says Lenguas made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't there to party with the students.
"They gave us a lecture and said this is to learn and we want you to have fun, but these are the rules we need you to listen to," she says. "He said, 'This trip is not about drinking.' A lot of students were, like, 'Whoa, we'd heard the trip was really lenient.'"
They also learned that, while there would be charter buses to transport the group during the day, they would have to rely on public transportation at night, and those costs were not included in the package.
DiMaggio hit the roof, and the students had to watch the first of many uncomfortable showdowns between their group leader and their tour guides.
The confusion should have been avoidable, particularly for a seasoned traveler like DiMaggio. Though she'd never traveled with Passports before, the handbook each student and parent was given before departure clearly states, "There are certain things you must pay for while on the tour that are not included in the program fee, such as subway or bus tickets."
Kathy Bernard, from Passports' booking office, says evening transportation is never included.
"If she had asked for a Metro pass, we would have included it, but evening transportation generally is not included," she says. "She should have been aware. We have a booklet laid out in an easy-to-read format."
DiMaggio says she was upset because transportation should not have been considered an extracurricular activity.
That first feud was characteristic of the entire trip. Nadea Tanzadeh says the students constantly watched their leader bicker with their guides.
"One thing that really annoyed me was, we seemed to be put in the middle of DiMaggio's and Passports' feud," she says. "We didn't get to have fun."
Despite the rocky start, nothing awful happened in London. The group visited Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. They rode the London Eye. They partied a little and got to know each other. Then, the group boarded the Chunnel train and headed to Paris.
In Paris, trouble began. For one thing, the hotel was in a bad part of town.
"It was in the ghetto," says Tanzadeh.
Dunshee says he doesn't feel the hotel was that bad but concedes some students were uncomfortable in the northeast Paris neighborhood. Fodors.com describes the neighborhood as "the poorest district of Paris, once exclusively the realm of immigrants, blue-collar workers, and housing projects" but points out the area has started to gentrify.
Complaints about the hotels continued throughout the trip. Katana White is not as critical.
"A nice hotel in Paris isn't the equivalent to a nice hotel in America," she says. "People were complaining the rooms were small, but Paris is small and condensed. You can't expect a five-room suite. We're not Madonna."
But the kids were partying like rock stars.
Several members of the group were often late for the early bus calls, putting the whole group behind schedule. The conflict between DiMaggio and Passports became worse, especially when the couriers left her behind one morning because she was late for the bus. DiMaggio says she simply missed her wake-up call.
"They were out to hurt me," she says. "I'm 58 and they were making me run to catch my own bus. I had to run three blocks . . . to catch my bus. It was a fight every minute."
Dunshee says the arguments colored the entire trip.
"There was constant bickering," says Dunshee. "I thought they (Passports) were very professional. They were trying to make the best of a bad situation."
Things also were souring for the homesick Jamie Bates when she developed a painful, itchy rash and had to visit a doctor in Paris. Bates is tiny, and when she talks about being sick far from home, her huge eyes grow even wider.
She got little sympathy from DiMaggio, who she says accused her of faking it because she wanted to go home. It was Morrissey who took her to the doctor. Their Passports guides referred them to a state-run hospital, which Bates describes as dirty and where her doctor didn't speak English well.
Bates' parents were not advised by Passports or DiMaggio that she'd visited a hospital. Bates had to call them herself. Her father, Jim, says he found out only when a neighbor whose child also was on the trip asked if everything was okay.
"A neighbor called me and said she was in the hospital," he says. "I was, like, 'What the fuck are you talking about?'"
Jamie says she was also not advised of the State Department's services for Americans who get sick overseas.
As a seasoned traveler, DiMaggio should have known the State Department policies, but Passports also neglects to mention this information in the handbook provided to students before departure.
Had anyone been aware of these policies, Bates could have contacted the embassy and been put in touch with an English-speaking doctor.
From Paris, the group including Bates moved on to Amsterdam.
In a city known for its hash cafes and red-light district, it's naive to think a group of American teenagers wasn't going to try to indulge. Though students were reticent to talk about it, several of their MySpace pages show kids blazing at the cafes and boasting about bringing weed back to their hotel rooms, which was strictly forbidden by both Passports' policy and DiMaggio's rules.
In Amsterdam, there were problems with Passports guide Lenguas, who was rumored to have invited some of the boys on the trip to his hotel room to take psychedelic mushrooms.
Michael Forhan, Passports' director of corporate development, says Lenguas was fired the day they heard what happened.
"We fired him on the spot. In a way, that's unfair to him if he's innocent," he says. "I have no idea if Ruben did it. We're investigating. But even the suggestion of that behavior, we can't tolerate it."
Nadea Tanzadeh, 19, graduated from Dobson High in 2006. She was part of the "party" group (her journal confirms it) and witnessed the action. She says she doesn't understand why Lenguas was removed from the trip while Morrissey, who was known to get drunk with students, was allowed to stay.
"What's the difference between kids going to [our chaperone's] hotel room and getting shit-faced drunk and partying, breaking stuff, being so loud, and Ruben inviting a kid back? I never saw the logic in that," she says.
"Things got broken in the train and hotel rooms and people started getting out of hand at the clubs," says Bates.
The hotel where the students stayed in Lucerne now refuses to let students on Passports tours stay there, says Phil Little, spokesman for Travel Connection, an overseas contractor with Passports that was in charge of booking all the hotels for DiMaggio's group.
Next came Germany.
After a trip to the Heidelberg Castle, one boy was so drunk he punched out a car window. And there was damage to the hotel rooms, as well.
While her classmates partied, Bates became sick again. Her legs wouldn't stop itching, so her doctor gave her a steroid cream and anti-itch medicine. She woke up at 2 one morning to find she'd scratched her legs so hard that they were bleeding. Her roommate put her in a cold bath and called DiMaggio. After a conversation with Bates' mother, who said she wanted her to go to the doctor, Morrissey took her to a hospital.
"They wanted to admit me for four days because the doctor thought there was an infection in my body, and he wanted to treat it," Bates says.
What happened next was a big risk for Bates.
DiMaggio said she was welcome to stay behind, but if she did, Bates' parents would be financially responsible for both Jamie and Morrissey to catch up to the tour. Her family said they couldn't afford a separate ticket home, and Bates' mother was adamant that her daughter stay with the group, so she had to stick it out. She says Morrissey took care of her the entire time she was sick, and despite his reputation as a partier, she's glad he was there for her.
"I felt safe with him," she says.
DiMaggio was less sympathetic, Bates recalls. Bates says that throughout her ordeal, even when the German doctor wanted to hospitalize her, DiMaggio taunted her, telling her she was making the whole thing up for attention.
"She was really mean to me. When I was sick, she said I was bringing it on myself because I wanted to go home. Really, I wasn't bringing it on myself," she says, looking like she was about to cry. "She just said, 'This isn't really happening. You're making this up. You're too dramatic.'"
DiMaggio says she's not sure exactly what she might have said to Bates, but does say she often tells her girls to "get tough."
"I love Jamie, but that's a kid's perception. I tell them, 'Girls, keep it real. If you get a boo-boo on your finger, we're not gonna take you to the emergency room,'" she says. "She got a tremendous amount of time and energy from Andy. I had all these other things to deal with. She wanted to go home because of a boyfriend thing, and we kept saying, 'Just come out with us.' The other thing is, if Jamie gets upset, she just explodes. She's very sensitive."
Bates says that as the trip went on, DiMaggio treated more and more kids badly, especially those who didn't want to drink.
By the time the group reached Germany, Passports had gotten so many complaints that the company sent a letter home to parents, asking them to call their kids and tell them to calm down. The package that the letter, dated June 13, came with included a strongly worded letter from Forhan to DiMaggio as well as a list of damages from the hotel where the group stayed in Munich.
The letter scared and angered a lot of parents. For one thing, there was a debate over which kids really were the troublemakers. And many parents were upset that DiMaggio was getting the blame for a bad trip they perceived to be Passports' fault.
Carolyn Camp is one of the parents who still support DiMaggio. She was alarmed, and then angered, by the letter. Part of the problem was that after the first packet of information, the parents received nothing else. They had no way to know what was going on or whether their kids were all right.
"Overall, D is probably more lenient than some parents are. But she also has signed things from some parents saying they could drink," Camp says. "When I got that letter I was, like, 'Wow, they are trying to make her out to be [bad].'"
Things really did get bad in Italy.
The group arrived in Venice to find that half of them were booked in a filthy hotel. In one room, a student turned down his bed and found a used condom and blood on the sheets. There was more blood and hair in the trashcan. In other rooms, there were cigarette burns and sand in the sheets and this from a tour that was supposed to be booked in three- and four-star hotels. DiMaggio and the students complained and were moved to a different hotel the next day.
Still, if the hotel was nasty, some of the students' behavior was worse.
The part of Venice where they were staying, Lido di Jesolo, is a popular destination for young travelers and an area famous for partying.
Yet, in an e-mail sent to Phil Little of Travel Connection, one hotel complains that, "We have never had a group like this before," and proceeds to list damages to rooms and problems with DiMaggio's group. The e-mail notes that part of the problem was that DiMaggio was often missing.
"Today, the kids were left entirely to their own devices for the whole day with no supervision. The teacher was often away from the hotel. Some of the parents call up asking to speak to her, but it was impossible to track her down as she was never present at the hotel."
DiMaggio and the Passports guides were out touring with part of the group. The troublemakers were left at the hotel unsupervised. Yet, even when she was around, the hotel says she wasn't helpful. Instead, she "defends them [the students] as if they were her own children."
The e-mail also details kids smoking cigarettes in their hotel rooms and stealing the property of one of the hotel bartenders, and two students arguing so loudly that the police had to be called.
The company decided to send Mark Alia, one of its European employees, to meet up with the group and figure out what to do as they moved on to Florence, where the greatest tragedy of the trip was yet to come.
On the first night in Florence, the group visited the Space Electronic nightclub, a venue where DiMaggio had taken students for years. She even mentioned the club at the parent meetings that preceded her trips, though it was not part of the Passports itinerary.
About 50 kids went to the club along with DiMaggio, Morrissey, and two Passports representatives.
The night quickly spun out of control. A group of particularly aggressive locals refused to leave the girls alone.
The group repeatedly harassed Katana White, a beautiful, conservative redhead who was on the trip with her boyfriend.
"I could just feel them looking at me like, 'I'm gonna get you. You're mine tonight.' They had that look to them like they were not there to have a good time. They were definitely there to score," she says.
When one of the boys asked her boyfriend how much she cost for the night, White moved upstairs to try to get away, only to discover a man under the stairs taking pictures up her skirt. She went to grab her boyfriend and get out of the club.
White wasn't the only one being harassed. Several girls in the group complained to Morrissey, who they say drunkenly confronted the Italians.
Students interviewed confirm there was a physical confrontation in the bar between the Italians and the Americans and that both Morrissey and a student, Alan Caughlin, were involved. According to students who were there, Caughlin threw the first punch inside the club. Caughlin did not respond to a written request for an interview.
White and her boyfriend left the bar and were followed to their cab by one of the Italian boys. He leaned in the window and yelled something in Italian before the driver told him to go away and drove off.
"I asked the driver what he said. The driver told us he said he would see us again and when he did, he was going to beat my boyfriend's ass and 'fuck that girl.' He was telling the driver, 'I am going to fuck that girl.' Me. He didn't say he wanted to, he said he was going to," she says.
While White was being harassed outside the bar, DiMaggio and the other chaperones were inside cheering on three of their girls in a wet T-shirt contest.
Nadea Tanzadeh was one of the girls in the contest. She remembers the night as "the best night of my life, turned to absolute crap." She says the group was excited to go to the club because DiMaggio told them it was great and she's "never been wrong."
As soon as the wet T-shirt contest was announced, she signed up.
As soon as the contest was over, more members of the group became aware of the trouble that had been brewing. It was time to go home.
The Italians were waiting.
DiMaggio says she had no idea what was happening to her kids inside the club. If she had, she says, she would have gotten them out immediately.
"I set rules months before," she says. "If there were any problems, they were supposed to come to me. They all knew these rules. No one let me know one thing."
Florence police declined to comment officially or share the police report, but several students confirm that the Italians and Americans got into it again. Jamie Bates was standing in the middle of the action. She says Morrissey yelled at the locals to stay away from their women. Other boys followed the chaperone's lead.
"I was completely sober. I was trying to get them to leave, but once people are drunk, it's hard to get them away. Andy is getting in the guys' faces, and all the other guys were, like, 'Oh, Andy is doing it, we can, too,'" she says.
Bates, armed with a map, decided to take a group back to the hotel. As she left, she heard screams behind her.
One of the Italians (the same boy who verbally harassed White as she sped away in the taxi) had gone to his car and pulled out a golf club. He swung it at the group many people say he was aiming for Caughlin. But Caughlin ducked, and instead the club hit 19-year-old Evan Bailey in the head.
Bates and other students say Bailey was sober with his girlfriend, Stephanie Gonzalez, for most of the trip. This was one of the only nights on the trip the pair went out.
When Bailey went down, the Italians scattered.
DiMaggio starts to cry when she recalls what happened. She was standing near him when he was hit.
"I was screaming so loud that I became deaf. I was screaming, but I couldn't hear myself," she says. "I would have rather died than have Evan get hurt."
As DiMaggio got into the ambulance with Bailey, Bates took Gonzalez's hand to help her back to the hotel.
"Stephanie was really upset: 'Oh, my gosh, is he going to be okay? There was so much blood.' I was trying to calm her down," she says. "She was crying and freaking out."
The next morning, Bates woke up and went to an Internet cafe with two other students and Morrissey to phone their parents. Bates says Morrissey was on the phone the whole time they were at the cafe. He told her he was taking a train to Greece on Monday morning and flying back to the States.
Steve Royster, spokesman for State Department consular affairs, would neither confirm nor deny that Morrissey was forced to leave the country for his involvement in the fight.
"What's safer to say is that the officers weren't readily aware of any Americans deported from Florence," he says. "The people there weren't there during this incident."
The students left and went to McDonald's. When they returned to the hotel, two other boys from the group were being arrested, and the police were searching for Morrissey. Bates was questioned. She told them what she knew and went with the cops to his room, where they found his bags packed. No one saw him after that day.
While his tourmates were under arrest, Evan Bailey lay in a hospital bed fighting for his life with a fractured skull and a severe brain hemorrhage.
The kids say they felt weird going on with the tour, but they didn't know what else to do. With Bailey in the hospital, DiMaggio decided to stay back with him until his parents got to Italy, at which point, she planned to rejoin the tour.
Passports sent a new tour guide to take over.
According to Chris Dunshee and Michael Forhan, of Passports, the company originally planned to kick DiMaggio off the tour entirely. When the students most of them still fiercely loyal to her became mutinous, Dunshee took over as a temporary guide until she returned.
"Had me and Lori not agreed to take over [while DiMaggio stayed], they were planning on just taking us to Rome and flying us home. We thought, for the kids' sake, we were willing to take over. But we wanted new guidelines," he says.
Strict rules, including a 10 p.m. curfew and a ban on drinking, went into effect. Of course, the students were used to doing things their way at this point, and they were angry their teacher was gone. So, the rules didn't go over so well.
"I was pissed," says Tanzadeh. "I told them, 'There's no trip without DiMaggio. We won't listen. We will treat you like crap.'"
The parents were happy that order was being established. Georgia O'Neil, whose son Turner was on the trip, even wrote DiMaggio to urge her to go along.
"Please cooperate with the Passports people! I want Turner to be able to finish his trip," she wrote in an e-mail she shared with New Times. "If they send everyone home, I don't have the money to pay for a return ticket, not to mention I don't want him ending up in the hospital like that poor boy."
The trip continued without DiMaggio, but students complain they were treated like children, and gypped out of things they'd paid for.
On the first day in Rome, the group went to the Coliseum. They made it to the outside and then were informed it would cost extra to go in, even though the site was clearly listed as something they'd paid for.
On their last night in Rome, DiMaggio rejoined the group, though not officially as their leader. She apparently was not happy about having her authority taken away.
"Angie showed up and said we betrayed her. She accused Lori and I of all kinds of things. She told the kids I was out every night drinking on my own, (but) I was in my room," says Dunshee.
DiMaggio continued to make excuses for Morrissey even though he was gone.
Even Tanzadeh, who remains close to DiMaggio, says it annoyed her to hear the teacher defend Morrissey's actions throughout the trip.
"Andy. Oh, God, I hate that man. Andy was drunk 97 percent of the time. If we had any free time, the first thing out of his mouth was, 'Hey, guys, let's go to the bar,'" she says. "DiMaggio was trying to fight for Andy. She would yell at me for blaming Andy. I was, like, he has so much bad stuff against him. She would yell at me and say, 'You don't even know what Andy has done for you guys.' Yeah, he found us bars and clubs. He hasn't taken us around; he hasn't made me feel comfortable once. He was just really immature. He wasn't appropriate."
Turns out, Morrissey was a convicted felon. According to Maricopa County Superior Court records, in 1997, he was convicted of solicitation to commit forgery. He was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and three years of probation for trying to cash a check written on someone else's account. Records show Morrissey had a history of marijuana and meth abuse until he entered treatment in 1994.
He violated his probation twice, once in 1998 when he was arrested on marijuana charges, and again in 1999 when he was arrested, but not charged, in connection with a sale of 1.4 grams of cocaine to an undercover police officer.
Experts say DiMaggio still needed more adult supervision on the trip.
According to Michael Palmer, executive director of the Student Youth Travel Association, a trade organization of which Passports is not a member, DiMaggio's student-to-adult ratio was too high.
"The ratio is usually six to one," Palmer says.
He adds that sometimes, couriers will discuss adding more chaperones with the tour leader, but usually only in situations where it's absolutely required, like a visit to a museum that mandates a specific number of adults.
DiMaggio could have invited more adults if she'd wanted to. For every six students on the trip, Passports gives teachers a free trip. Instead, DiMaggio elected to take one free trip per 20 students, allowing her to invite three chaperones, and she was paid a bonus for additional students. Passports won't disclose how much she made in bonuses, but according to the pay scale listed in the materials they give to teachers, it was at least $10,000.
The company admits it never suggested she bring more adults with her.
Lianna Clarkson, a teacher at Mountain View High School, in the same district as DiMaggio, is also a student-travel veteran. She runs a much tighter ship. She's been running trips for 18 of her 19 years as a teacher and she says she'd never have a beer with her students. She's led groups everywhere from Japan to Mexico and she's never had a major incident. She says students don't even try to break her rules.
That's not to say they don't have fun. During the day, they're in class actually earning their academic credit and when school is out, they visit cultural sites, take cooking classes, and learn to salsa dance. She says her trips work because she makes her expectations clear from the start.
"Students are expected to keep school rules 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and teachers are also expected to behave as though they were at school. We don't have personal lives until we go home," she says. "I tell them, if you are a minor here, you are a minor there."
Clarkson uses only certified teachers as chaperones and she's careful to always have at least one adult for every six kids. She teaches the students how to respond safely to harassment and, if students are hurt or get sick, as Jamie Bates did, she notifies their parents promptly. She also requires letters of intent from each student and letters of recommendation from their teachers.
She's never heard of a teacher providing waivers allowing kids to drink or taking a group as large as DiMaggio's with so few chaperones, Clarkson says, adding that the quality of the trip depends on the quality of the teacher.
"It's all the teacher. I know teachers who show up late [to class] and don't teach to the bell. I do," she says. "I don't know this teacher, but I'm glad I don't."
But DiMaggio's supporters, even some of the students on this summer's trip, love her. She is the "cool" teacher. At school, students don't need a late pass to show up to her class after the bell. On the trip, they knew they could drink and have fun without a lecture from their teacher.
"We call her Mamma D. She's like our mom. She knows when to draw the line between parenting and friendship. She knows how to parent in a fun way," says Nadea Tanzadeh. "We know her. She was our comfort blanket in a foreign place, and she knows what the hell she's talking about."
Katana White agrees.
"She knows what's going on with us. She just takes care of us. She's this big Italian woman, but she's fun and we respect her. She wants to party with us."
That desire to be cool with her students may have compromised safety, many say. No one interviewed by New Times recalls being given any solid safety advice by DiMaggio or Passports. DiMaggio simply assured parents she would take care of their "babies."
"Parents, don't stress out on me. Trust [me], I have done this 14 times. I will take good care of your kid. This is what I do best," she wrote on the group's pre-departure Web site.
Lindsay Waits, spokeswoman for the Student Safe Travel Association (founded by the mother of Natalie Holloway, who disappeared in Aruba on her senior trip in 2005), says more information should have been provided.
"Preparation is key," she says. "Know where the nearest U.S. embassy is. Know your rights as an American citizen. Know where the nearest police station is. Know what the 911 equivalent is."
Students weren't given this information, but because DiMaggio was a teacher for 35 years, parents trusted her.
The school district has extremely strict rules regarding district-sanctioned student travel. According to district code, trips outside the country are forbidden for kindergartners through ninth-graders and are not recommended for students older than that. All chaperones must be certified teachers (meaning a background check already is done) and students are expected to adhere to district rules forbidding drinking and drug use.
But the school district had nothing to do with this trip, or any other planned by a teacher in his or her spare time.
According to Kathy Bariess, community-relations director for Mesa Unified School District, the school board has no authority over teachers running unsanctioned trips.
"They're not acting as a district employee; they're acting as an employee of the travel company," she says. "As a district, we can't make rules that influence a business."
Three months after the students returned, there are still loose ends. Evan Bailey returned home July 4 in stable condition, but his recovery is slow. He is currently in speech therapy, and his dad says he will be for the next few months. He will not be attending school this fall, though he'd planned on working toward a business degree at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Jamie Bates made a full physical recovery, though she required medical treatment once she returned to the States. Because of the lack of regulation of the industry, parents have had a hard time figuring out whom to blame. There is no group that rates student travel groups, though Palmer, of the Student Youth Travel Association, says checking with the Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.
Passports has been in business since 1992, and since then, the BBB has fielded 11 complaints against it. The company has a satisfactory record with the Bureau and all complaints are reported as resolved or administratively closed. Of the complaints filed, billing and collection issues were the most common complaint. There are no complaints against the company filed with the Federal Trade Commission. A search of federal courts across the country doesn't reveal any lawsuits against the company.
There are also no past lawsuits filed in the Massachusetts county where Passports' main office is located. The one other public complaint against the company is listed on consumeraffairs.com, where a teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, complained that, after her group canceled their trip, Passports was unable to reimburse the students for the cost of their flights. The case didn't go to court.
DiMaggio's supporters are convinced the problems on the trip are Passports' fault. In fact, the company does take responsibility for the sub-par hotels and for Lenguas' possibly inappropriate behavior.
But they maintain it was DiMaggio's "culture of permissiveness" that led to Bailey's hospitalization. Chaperones and parents who were on the trip agree.
The Baileys declined to make a statement because the Italian who assaulted their son will stand trial in the next few months in Italy. At this point, Evan's father, Jim, says they are not planning to file a civil suit against Passports or DiMaggio.
As for his opinion of the company and the teacher?
"I'll just keep that to myself," Jim Bailey says.
Some parents like Jamie Bates' father are still furious, and vocal about it. Bates' father almost explodes when asked if he'd send Jamie on another trip.
"With a DiMaggio idiot? With Passports?" he asks, anger growing. His face turns red as he lets out a stream of expletives that he asks not be recorded.
Others still support her.
"She was letting us have fun. Accidents happen," says Nadea Tanzadeh. "Like, with Evan, it was an accident. No one knew the crazy Italian was going to pull out a damn golf club."
She does readily admit one thing: "After Andy [Morrissey] left, shit cleaned up."
Carolyn Camp says her sister's kids went on a DiMaggio trip last year and had a great experience. (Her sister and her family declined to talk for this story.)
Camp feels the ultimate responsibility lies with the kids, not the adults, on the trip. She adds she would let her son go on another trip with DiMaggio if he wanted to.
"Take a good look at your kid. It's a good idea for a parent to know, [if] their kid's been drinking and getting in trouble, maybe he's not the prime candidate for a trip," she says. "Don't put all your faith in one person; they can't control a whole group."
Angie DiMaggio retired this past spring after 37 years of teaching. She says she's contemplating whether to lead another trip to Europe next year.
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