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Drunken Students: A Police or School Matter?

Principal says probe is a police issue; police say it's better handled by the school.

Chatham Township Police Lt. Steven Hennelly said the department may let school administrators take the lead in the investigation into four teens who arrived at a pep rally intoxicated Friday.

by emergency personnel after school officials alerted police of their condition. All were under 18.

The township's juvenile officer will continue investigating the incident, but Hennelly said "sometimes it's better left to the school."

When asked what investigation the school is conducting into where the minors obtained the alcohol, Principal Darren Groh said, "That would be a police matter."

Hennelly said the department has "no idea of where [the students] got the alcohol from" and it is his understanding that "none of the four students are connected. ... It's not like there was one party and everybody was there."

Groh declined to comment on what disciplinary action the school took against the students, but he did confirm all four were cleared to return to school by a medical doctor.

"We handled the students who were intoxicated according to the alcohol policy adopted by the [Board of Education] and we're doing our best to support the students," Groh said.

A statement from township police mentioned three of the four teens. The fourth was a borough resident, Hennelly said, and "we only dealt with [the] three [township] teens."

Chatham Borough Police spokesman Kevin O'Shea said any police involvement in the incident will come out of the Chatham Township Police Department and not the borough.

Rowdy at the Rally

Groh estimated about half the student body, or "approximately 500 students," attended the rally. He said attendance was down compared to previous years, especially considering the school population has risen in recent years. He said there were "the regular number of chaperones," including himself, the school's two assistant principals, Lori Gironda and George Alexis, and at least six other staff members.

Student behavior in the pep rally was described as unruly, resulting in the rally ending early. Groh said the two incidents are "completely separate."

According to Groh, the pep rallies at Chatham High are scripted in advance by the Pep Club and allow "little down time so students can stay focused on athletics." On Friday, students deviated from the plan and, with that number of students, "a little loss of control" occurred, he said.

"I wouldn't pinpoint [the other students'] conduct to alcohol consumption," Groh said. "I think kids are excited about the start of the school year and the fall sports season. ... Their conduct at the pep rally and any consequences were completely separate from those four students."

The Future of Pep and Open Campus

Groh told the Board of Education Monday night he suspended Open Campus for the senior class for two weeks as a result of their behavior at the rally.

"When Open Campus returns on Oct. 3, I expect there will be no [further] incident that would change [the policy permanently]. ... It was an isolated incident and we handled it as such," he said in an interview with Chatham Patch.

Pep rallies, though, will not take place as they have in the past.

"If there's a different student event that the kids would like to have, I'm open to proposals for opportunities for the kids to show their school spirit," Groh said.

selena September 27, 2011 at 02:05 AM
I find it wierd how no ones mentioned all the drunk parents that night. The parents were all drunk from the athletic boosters fundraiser that taxis were hired to bring them home. Its not just the kids. Parents need to set the example
Andrew Passantino September 28, 2011 at 08:43 PM
As a 21 year old adult I believe that underage drinking should not be tolerated. However, these drunkards didn't kill anyone or hurt anything, so this problem may be blown out of the water a little. However, these kids should receive severe punishments, and parents need to set a better example. Parents are too loose these days on their kids.. If you're not the least bit strict they will do as they please.. AKA stupid decisions, etc. Trust me, I was a kid once.. However, every night I had to be home at a certain time, or my car would be taken away and grounded for weeks. These kids get it easy today.
amazed78 April 12, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Couldnt agree more. Its a matter the school DYFS and the police should all be working on together. Not fighting over who should hande it.
amazed78 April 12, 2012 at 06:04 PM
ok so since you cant assume that the drinking was done before and shot glasses were found broken, maybe its time to either cancel all pep rallys or have every student that walks thru door at the pep rallys bags searched. Then you will have parents debating violation issues. There is no happy medium, but being a single parent of 2 girls I say search whatever you want, whatever is gonna make them safe.
Everclear April 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
^ this guys kids go to delbarton

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