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St. Patrick's party leads to 17 underage drinking citations

Williamsport High students among estimated crowd of at least 50

March 26, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

FAIRPLAY — Seventeen Washington County residents, including some Williamsport High School students, were cited for underage drinking after deputies responded to a Fairplay home on St. Patrick’s Day for a complaint about a loud party, Maj. Bob Leatherman said Monday.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a noise complaint at 11:34 p.m. on March 17 for a loud party in the 7600 block of Fairplay Road, Leatherman said. That area is southwest of the intersection of Spielman Road and Sharpsburg Pike.

As deputies arrived at the home just after midnight, a large crowd scattered and several people ran into a wooded area behind the single-family home, Leatherman said.

Leatherman said the supervisor at the scene estimated there were at least 50 people at the party, 25 of whom remained after police arrived.

Those who remained were offered a preliminary breath test, Leatherman said. The supervising officer did not recall anyone refusing to take the test, Leatherman said.

Seventeen of the 25 people who remained were cited for underage drinking, Leatherman said. Those who were issued citations received them because either their results from the breath test were positive, they possessed an alcoholic beverage or deputies smelled enough alcohol on the person to issue a citation, Leatherman said.

Those who were issued citations were picked up by a parent or taken home by a sober driver, Leatherman said.

Five female juveniles were cited for possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 18, Leatherman said. Of those five, one was 14 years old, three were 16 and one was 17, he said.

Twelve people, ages 18 or 19, were cited for possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21, Leatherman said. Of those, eight were 18 and four were 19, he said. Eight were male and four were female, he said.

Most of the people cited live in the Williamsport ZIP code, Leatherman said.

Leatherman said the party began when a resident of the home had a couple of friends over, and then someone told someone else, and so on until a crowd was present.

The parents had planned an evening out and found out what happened at their home later, Leatherman said.

Several participants in the party were drinking beer and wine coolers that were taken to the home, Leatherman said.

Leatherman said there was no evidence of drug paraphernalia and he was not aware of any injuries.

Washington County Board of Education President Wayne Ridenour, speaking as a county citizen, said underage drinking happens, but it’s “disappointing and scary.”

“It’s disappointing when it does happen because kids are putting themselves and others at risk. It’s too easy for something like that to turn into a tragedy. The last thing we want is something to happen to one of our kids,” Ridenour said.

“So many things can go wrong. So many things can happen, and it’s not just a citation,” said Ridenour, noting the possibility of alcohol poisoning as one possible result.

“We discourage it as educators. We discourage it as parents,” he said.

Asked if students were disciplined by Washington County Public Schools because of the party, school system spokesman Richard Wright, in an email, wrote “If a student violates a policy or code of conduct, disciplinary procedures are followed. Specifics of those actions are not discussed publicly in order to protect the students.”

Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox did not immediately return phone messages Monday afternoon.

Williamsport High School Principal April Bishop did not return two phone messages left at the school Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, Wright emailed that he was “unable to confirm specifics regarding disciplinary actions for any student, however students are routinely disciplined for a variety of reasons, all of which are outlined in the student handbook and within the ‘Rules and Regulations Governing Participation in Extracurricular Activities.’”

According to a copy of those rules and regulations, possession or use of alcohol or knowingly and willingly being in proximity of a person who is illegally in possession of alcohol “will result in dismissal from the organization/team for forty-five (45) calendar days or for the remainder of the sports season, whichever is longer. Elected and appointed offices held within the organization shall be forfeited for the remainder of the school year. The student will be referred to the school Student Assistance Program.” The document has a space at the bottom for a student to sign his or her name.

This document is to be given to prospective team/activity members and their parents or guardians before the first tryout practice, according to information at the school system’s website.

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