LINCOLN, Maine – Police issued summonses to 31 Bangor High School students early Sunday after officers found them at a camp on McGregor Road sleeping in vehicles, many very intoxicated, Police Chief William Lawrence said Wednesday.
Some students play sports at the high school and could face disciplinary action for violating school policies, a school official said.
The students, all ages 15 and 16, were issued summonses for illegal possession of alcohol and one was charged with illegal possession of marijuana, Lawrence said. He did not release their names because they are juveniles.
Given the students’ circumstances ― exposure to single-digit temperatures, heavy intoxication and sleepiness from being awake most of the night ― responding Officers Roy Bickford, Jacob Ferland and state police Trooper Thomas Fiske immediately called Penobscot Valley Ambulance Service and had the teens examined for alcohol poisoning and hypothermia, Lawrence said.
The officers also were worried that some students might have frozen to death in those conditions, Lawrence said.
“We were concerned that some might have been outside passed out,” Lawrence said.
The officers were called to the scene at 6 a.m. Sunday. Lawrence contacted Bangor High School officials on Tuesday and told them what he knew about the incident. The officials had heard rumors about what had happened and were gathering information about it. One, in fact, had called Lawrence already in search of information, the police chief said.
Bangor Superintendent of Schools Betsy M. Webb could not confirm Wednesday afternoon the total number of Bangor High School students and student-athletes involved in the incident but she said administrators at the school were continuing their internal investigation of the matter before any penalties would be assessed based on school policies.
That investigation likely will be completed Thursday, she said.
“We became aware of this situation on Monday, and we obviously knew that students who participate in many of our extra- and co-curricular activities were involved,” Webb said.
“Our investigation started Monday afternoon and I believe we’re wrapping it up, but it’s not quite complete. There’s a lot of interviewing that goes into something like this. It’s a time-consuming process.”
The camp owner was not cited. Lawrence described the owner as a grandparent of one of the students who was unaware of, did not condone and was not responsible for the party.
Police attempts to determine who supplied alcohol to the party were thwarted by a lack of cooperation from the students, Lawrence said.
Once the officers had secured the driver’s licenses and identification cards of the students, police notified the parents, who were cooperative with the officers’ efforts, Lawrence said.
One parent, however, called police and was angry that school officials were notified of the party. The parent was upset that his or her teenager had been suspended from participating in winter athletics, Lawrence said.
Lawrence, who said he did not speak to the parent, was not impressed with what his officers told him of the parent’s arguments.
“The overall message that I would have is they [parents] should know where their children are because those were dangerous conditions,” Lawrence said. “My officers did the right thing and a lot of the parents were good about it.”
“I would rather see them [students] suspended than to lose them,” Lawrence added.
According to the Bangor High School Parent & Student Handbook, students in grades 6-12 who are involved in interscholastic activities and/or other extra- or co-curricular activities must sign a contract pledging in part that “during the season of practice, play, rehearsal, or duration of any extra- or co-curricular activity (including athletics), a student shall at no time use a beverage containing alcohol; or use, have in possession, buy, sell, or give away alcohol or any substance defined by law as a scheduled drug, a counterfeit drug, or an imitation drug. This rule will also apply to drug paraphernalia and look-alike drugs.”
The school’s policy and procedures for intervention in such cases say a first offense by a student may result in a suspension from school for up to three days, while athletes and other students involved in extra- or co-curricular activities also will be suspended from those activities for two calendar weeks.
If it is a second offense, the student may be suspended from school for up to five days, while athletes and other students involved in extra- or co-curricular activities also will be suspended for the remainder of the sports season or the duration of the activity.
“We want to be supportive of the student-athletes and their families,” said Webb, “but we also have to hold them accountable.”
Students not involved in any co- or extra-curricular activities probably would not face disciplinary action in this case because the actions police accused the students of occurred outside a schoolday and were not part of any school-sanctioned activity, Webb said.
“If it is away from school and has nothing to do with school, then we lack the authority to hold students accountable,” Webb said. “We are not the disciplinarians for all activities in society. We only have authority for what involves the school.”
However, student-athletes and participants in any other co- or extra-curricular activities can face disciplinary action because those activities are considered a privilege and their participants are held to a higher standard, Webb said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said the students were 14 and 15. The students were 15 and 16.