Falmouth parents involved in teen drinking scandal featured on ‘20/20’

Posted June 15, 2013, at 9:33 a.m.
Barry and Paula Spencer discuss with 20/20 their case and the issue of underage drinking.
20/20 | ABC
Barry and Paula Spencer discuss with 20/20 their case and the issue of underage drinking.

FALMOUTH, Maine — What started as a celebratory gathering in 2012 for two high school championship teams quickly became an underage drinking party that police described as “an animal house,” and ultimately ended with the two parents who hosted the event, Barry and Paula Spencer, charged with furnishing liquor to minors.

The hot topic on underage drinking continues today, and the question of whether the Falmouth couple were complicit in allowing minors to drink at their home during a party or simply preventing teenagers from drinking before the party spiraled out of control, is one that the ABC television show ‘20/20’ wanted to further investigate.

Reporter Elizabeth Vargas interviewed the Spencer family about the incident from its initial origins to why the couple didn’t stop things when it started getting “out of control.”

Paula Spencer responded saying, “I felt like I invited these kids to our home to celebrate, and I didn’t have clear evidence that they were all drinking. I also really felt at the time that if I walked around and said, ‘all right, everybody, we’re shutting it down,’ they’d run to their cars or do something that’s more dangerous than what they were actually doing.”

The ‘20/20’ report mentions similar stories of other adults hosting underage drinking parties, while reiterating the question of what the right course of action would be take in similar situations.

District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, who eventually made a deal with the Spencers for no jail time, but would have them pay $17,000 in fines and restitution, write a letter of apology in the local paper and serve 100 hours of community service each, said that underage drinking is the same no matter if the kids are in the basement having a few beers or out late at night unsupervised.

And while she told Vargas that she’s not going to stop underage drinking, she thinks that the Spencer case is one that “got the issue out in the open. I think parents are putting themselves in the position of the Spencers and saying, ‘what should I do differently? If I’m going to have a party, I better have chaperones.’”

Watch the video for the complete ‘20/20’ report about the Spencer case and underage drinking.

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