Teenage binge drinking leaves Scarsdale residents humiliated

By on October 24, 2002

At last month’s homecoming party in Scarsdale, N.Y., 27 students ended up with three-day suspensions and five students were hospitalized with acute alcohol poisoning.
“There are an awful lot of parents who all of a sudden have to be looking inside themselves,” said Scarsdale’s mayor, David Kroenlein.
Three hundred mothers and fathers gathered in Scarsdale High School’s auditorium for a community-wide meeting after dealing with their childrens’ near-death experiences.
At the party, one 16-year-old student had to have her stomach pumped after falling nearly unconscious. Other students, some as young as 14 years old, were vomiting, incoherent, unconscious or on the verge of passing out.
Principal John Klemme arrived at the dance at 8 p.m. and found nearly a third of the 600 students in attendance drunk. They had snuck alcohol in by having vodka in water bottles.
Two calls were made to 911 by the principal of the school, the first being at 8:48 p.m.
Similar incidents have occurred in Harrison and Chappaqua, causing many to say the drinking is beginning to start at a younger age and in greater quantities.
“We’ve invested more time and energy in drug and alcohol awareness than anyone I know, but it never seems to make a dramatic change. It will take something other than, or in addition to, what we’ve been doing,” said Dr. McGill.
McGill said this issue has to be addressed in individual homes, by individual kids and individual families.
“We have a part to play,” he said. “But we’re really talking about a change of heart no institution can address. And it’s not clear that the community as a whole is in agreement about where to draw the line.”
Scarsdale Family Counseling Service’s executive director, Geraldine Greene, asks, “What do affluent families not have a lot of? Time-and it takes a lot of time to raise a teenager.”
She blames the Scarsdale families that earn more than $200,000 a year.
“Underage drinking is an adult failure,” she said. “In every case, an adult has let a child down. Somewhere along the way they haven’t exercised due care. This community has high academic expectations for its children. Why can’t it have behavioral expectations as well?”
This question affected the effort in helping the teenagers of Scarsdale High School. Since the homecoming dance, Klemme met with student government leaders and told them that “the world is taking a perverse pleasure in Scarsdale’s humiliation.” He continued that it was the students’ challenge to reclaim their school.
Detective Richard Fatigate, Scarsdale’s youth officer, has also been busy investigating where the drinking parties were held prior to the homecoming dance. He located two homes and sent out letters, warning the parents that failure to take corrective measures may result in criminal and civil penalties.
Detective Fatigate also set up a phone line for any anonymous tips about possible parties.
“There will be arrests,” he sad. “There will be charges brought. This is a new game.”


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