Thursday, December 12, 2002

Cape students on field trip suspended for pot and alcohol

Published in the Current

An economics class trip to the New York Stock Exchange in mid-November resulted in two-day suspensions for 16 of the 22 students on the trip, after the group was caught drinking and smoking marijuana.

Student representative Aaron McKenney told the Cape Elizabeth School Board about the incident at its regular business meeting Tuesday. The class, led by teacher Ted Jordan, went to New York Nov. 10 and spent the night in a hotel before visiting the exchange the following day.

That night in the hotel, “most of the students were using marijuana and alcohol,” McKenney said.

School Board Chairman Marie Prager praised the students who didn’t drink or smoke, and said it “was a very good choice for them” to abstain. She said she was glad that “it wasn’t everybody” on the trip.

High school Principal Jeff Shedd, as a result of this incident and a student party shortly after Thanksgiving, is now enforcing a longtime school rule prohibiting students from hosting or attending parties where drugs or alcohol are being used, though he said it is not a cure-all.

“I have absolutely no expectation that this will alleviate the problem of drinking and drugging in Cape Elizabeth,” Shedd told the board.

He also told the board he did not seek the role he has found himself in, speaking out about teen drug and alcohol use. He said he does not want the school to be viewed as part of the problem and does want public discussion on the subject. “This is a very very important issue,” he said.

Shedd told the board that he wanted to encourage all students “to do the right thing.” He said that means for students who are hosting a party where
people are drinking and using drugs, they need to take action to end the party, by notifying police or parents immediately.

If they do not, they will face suspension from athletic teams or non-sports activities for the remainder of the season.

As for students who are in attendance at the party, they should leave when they discover illegal substances being used, and should not use the intoxicants. If they do not leave, they will be kept off their sports teams or activities while the incidents are under investigation by school officials.

Shedd said he does not expect the investigations to take “a long time” and does not anticipate that it will adversely affect many students.

Student representative Hillary Weimont told the board the students involved in the marijuana-smoking incident realized their error and will take the issue more seriously in the future.

A member of the public asked if the students were allowed to go on a later economics class trip to Augusta, where they met Gov. Angus King and Governor-elect John Baldacci. McKenney said the students were not barred from that trip, but it was a day trip with no opportunity to be away from adult supervision.

“Cape Elizabeth has this problem with drinking and substance abuse,” McKenney told the board. “We may not be alone, but we sure do have a big problem.”

He said that while programs like Cape Life – an initiative to provide kids with activities that don’t involve drinking and drugs – are good ideas, “I think it’s going to take a few years” to get the message to the kids in the community.

He commended Principal Shedd for taking on the issue.

Shedd said the students involved were good students, and not the “usual” students he deals with regarding drug and alcohol use. That, he said, confirmed that the problem of alcohol touches many of the town’s young people.