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Write the Damion Wilkins Duty of Care Bill

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My son Damion Deshawn Wilkins was only 19 years of age and a student at Old Dominion University. He was a student leader, and honor student and a Resident Adviser. He was going into his junior/senior year as a Biology/pre-med student with a double major in Psychology.  He was an extremely intelligent, compassionate and caring young man.  All of his professors loved and respected him and his friends admired him. He was never considered a normal kid, but exceptional by anyone that knew him.

Damion sat in on a lecture at school while in his Biology class from Doctor Rollins of the Tropical Pathology and Infectious Disease Association. They spoke of “Humanitarian Service with a Human Experience”. It was to be a lifetime experience working with the less fortunate of Peru through a summer program. The summer program would earn him college credit and the experience preparing him for medical school.

For my son it was exactly who he was a caring person willing to give back and learn at the same time. Somehow after during the 5th day of the program while visiting with local tribes my son died. My son was 19 years old with a bright future ahead of him had a heart attack and died on the jungle floor. There was no emergency medicine for him, no defibrillator, no plan in place for those students that were there to give back, only the students , guides and Dr. Rollings.  By the time he got back to what would pass as the hospital my son was dead. There was no investigation into what caused a healthy 19 year old to have a heart attack. There was no assistance by the program to get my son home. He died and they walked away as if they had nothing to do with him. I had to go through the US Embassy to try and make sure his body was OK and to get him home. He believed in what he was doing and I believed that since it was through the school and they gave school credits that there was some kind of over site. I was wrong and my son paid the price with his life. 

The students that study abroad are America’s best and brightest, our future, a national treasure.  They must be protected from the abuse occurring in a $200 billion self-regulated industry. A bill to help protect them is needed and should have already been written. 

Damion Wilkins Duty of Care Bill

The United States must mandate duty of care to Academic Institutes of America receiving tax dollars.  The United States must force acceptance of responsibility to any AIA receiving remuneration for academic credit, or using AIA funded campuses or faculty to encourage global cultural, adventure, or athletic student experiences. AIA must identify and mitigate risks prior to encouraging students abroad.  K12 are even more vulnerable than college students.  The United States must force acceptance of responsibility to any AIA receiving remuneration for academic credit, or using AIA funded campuses or faculty to encourage global cultural, adventure, or athletic student experiences in the following ways:

1.      AIA have a responsibility to insure qualified faculty, safe faculty, safe campuses, safe transportation, safe food and water, safe student housing, safe equipment, safe health, appropriate insurance and more. 

2.      AIA duty of care should not be excused but heightened when exporting American students into foreign countries.

3.      Duty of Care must not be diminished by ad hoc waivers coerced onto students prior to departure.  Indeed, a standard waiver for acceptance of liability must be put forth by the United States similar to Fulbright or Peace Corp.

4.      AIA Duty of Care should parallel U.S. responsibility to its employees.

5.      Programs, particularly large ones, have a responsibility to know how many students are abroad and where they are.  In many cases, University leaders have no idea how many students are in a particular country.  Students have been left behind during evacuations.  

6.      Programs have millions of dollars and liability insurance.  Parents and students do not.  Jurisdiction must serve the victims in their home state when families and students are wrought to file lawsuits for personal injury or wrongful death.

7.      AIA must identify and mitigate risks prior to encouraging students abroad. 

8.      Programs are not excused from Duty of Care when students extend their stay. Insurance must still apply and student must be able to rely on resources to help if injured or hurt. Students are over there at the beckoning of programs, programs must maintain support until they come home.  They would not be there without the enticement. 

9.      Duty of Care does not cease and desist when a student is dead.  The United States must mandate AIA provide a duty of care to escort parents to the deceased if possible, appropriate necessary medi-vac or ambulatory repatriation of remains in a respectful manner aligned with deceased religious beliefs, compensate survivors for funeral services if deemed cause was negligent, and obtain medical, police and eyewitness reports by 3rd parties. 

10.   AIA must not investigate themselves or withhold information.  FBI or Peace Corp medical, potential armed services, could be engaged to protect the rights of the victim and the victim’s family to due process in the foreign country, with active engagement of American Citizen Services within the foreign country.

11.   Expatriating guilty parties, or victims, to avoid arrests should become a criminal offense.

12.   Duty of care includes following rules set forth by USDOS to evacuate from countries deemed unsafe for Fulbright or Peace Corp participants. 

13.   USDOD should work with USDOS to black list countries United States has economic sanctions against. 

14.   Student abroad programs are a lucrative enticement rewarding recipient countries with billions of dollars and the young minds of our students.  Students are easily thwarted – FBI recently created a warning for students who are being duped into becoming terrorist aides and intellectual property thieves.  Dr. Chickering made a discovery that youth, until age 24-26, are operating without fully developed frontal lobes making them a vulnerable population.  AIA must not export students into countries with economic sanctions or black lists for Fulbright or Peace Corp. 

15.   Once duty of care is assigned, the United States have a responsibility to investigate duty of care breaches. AIA who carelessly, purposely, or negligently harm American students abroad must be held criminally accountable, such as they would be on American soil. 

16.   Federal oversight is required to insure repeat offenses do not occur.  Duty of Care includes transparent reporting and appropriate sanctions.   

17.   Sanctions should be ruled upon by federal oversight, or a U.S. department which does NOT receive remuneration for student programs abroad, sans DOS.  

 



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