19 Kids in a Hatchback?

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By: Brian Braiker
Who knows what Melanie Minnie was thinking. Maybe she was teaching her students a lesson about spacial relationships? It could be she was doing an elaborate people-sized puzzle. Perhaps it was a logic problem, played out in real life.

Whatever was going through this South African elementary teacher's head last Wednesday, she clearly wasn't thinking when she was packed 19 of her students into a four-door hatchback and drove off on a field trip.

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Minnie had apparently taken it upon herself to plan a lunch outing for 31 students - all ages 4 to 6 - which is in itself a lovely gesture considering her young charges had never been on one before.

But the devil's in the details. In order to haul her 31 wards to a mall about a mile away for a celebratory meal, Minnie did not ask for help. She did not rent a bus or hire a driver. No! That would be so much less efficient! Or something!

Instead, Minnie opted to haul all of the children herself over multiple trips in a Renault Clio, a subcompact hatchback.

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She almost got away with it too: Minnie told police when she was finally pulled over that she was on the last leg of her journey. She had already delivered the 31 kids to the restaurant, and taken back another 12 to the preschool while leaving the last 19 on the restaurant's playground during her shuttling.

But quick-witted mall patrons had apparently noticed children tumbling from Minnie's car, circus clowns-style, and alerted the authorities - who found three kids in the front seat, 11 in the rear seat and six in the hatch.

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South Africa being apparently less punitive than the US (there's a sentence fragment we never thought we'd write), Minnie is getting off essentially scot-free: she received a wrist-slap and a $170 ticket.

What do you think of what Minnie did? Should she have been punished more severely or was her heart in the right place?

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