POTSDAM — A Village Police report says an anonymous report that up to 30 juveniles were at an underage drinking party on New Year’s Eve, which led to the high school suspending about 15 students from extracurricular activities, was not an accurate assessment of the party.
Parents of Potsdam Central School students who were at the party voiced their displeasure with school administrators during a Jan. 14 Board of Education meeting, saying the school used questionable methods to investigate students who attended a New Year’s Eve party.
The students were punished as first-time offenders under Level A violations in the school’s Code of Conduct, Section 5205 Eligibility For Extracurricular Activities, which pertains to students in grades 7 through 12. The students were also suspended from participating in school activities for 45 school days.
Access to the police report was not available immediately following the school meeting and a Freedom of Information Law request seeking the police report regarding the party has not yet been answered at the time of this report.
But in a copy of the police report obtained by the Times from one of the parents, Village Police said there was only one juvenile at the party who was found with a can of beer. The report says the juvenile was not intoxicated, there was no immediate danger posed to those present and no charges would be filed.
The section of the code where the kids were punished states “It is understood that the school administration will not go looking for student violations during school breaks and in the summer. However, when a violation of the code is egregious and endangers the health and well-being of other students, the District may exercise its legal authority to impose appropriate consequences per this policy.”
According to the report, Village Police received a call at 11:50 p.m. Dec. 31 from state police headquarters in Albany reporting they received an anonymous tip from the 866-under 21 tip line of an underage drinking party at a private residence on Missouri Avenue in the village.
The caller reported that there were about 30 juveniles at the party and that they were posting pictures to Snapchat and Instagram, police reported in their narrative.
Upon his arrival, Potsdam Police Sgt. Clinton M. Perrigo reported having located a male subject in the driveway with a beer in his hand who admitted he was under 21 and that there was a party in the house.
Police said there were about 30 juveniles in the home and that two of the juveniles who lived there first said their parents were sleeping upstairs, but after several requests to wake them, the juveniles said their parents were out of town.
After obtaining a number where the parents could be reached, the parents said they allowed for a party to be held by their children and they allowed to have about 20 friends over, the report stated.
The parents were advised of the under-age drinking complaint and told them there were about 30 juveniles at their home.
After speaking to the mother of the children, she told the police that alcohol was not supposed to be part of the arrangements, police said.
“Parents stated all the juveniles could stay there for the night and that they actually preferred that they stay there for the night where they were safe if there had been any drinking,” the report stated. “All the listed juveniles were located in the residence and spoken with. No other juveniles were witnessed consuming alcohol or in possession of alcohol. Most of the juveniles were located in a large living room watching television. None of the juveniles appeared to be highly intoxicated or in any distress or danger.”
Police said they began to identify everyone in the house and that it was “quickly apparent that there was not as much alcohol consumption as was reported.
“Most subjects spoken to did not appear to have drank, and denied drinking,” Sgt. Perrigo wrote in his report. “Those that did admit to consuming alcohol were found to be in a sober state. The only intoxicated subject appeared to be a (redacted), who was entering the shower. No charges were filed, as the amount of alcohol appeared to be little, and only one subject was found to be in possession of the alcohol upon patrol’s arrival. Case closed.”
Parents at the meeting said they wanted to know how the names of minors were released to the school as part of the investigation. Some of the parents alleged the school administration had pitted student against student to get the information.
School Superintendent Joann M. Chambers, who was present at Tuesday night’s meeting, and Potsdam Police Lt. Michael Ames each declined to comment on the situation, telling the Times it was a personnel issue.