From the Homecoming Dance in the fall, to Junior and Senior Proms this spring, alcohol and abuse of school rules regarding drinking have been an ongoing issue at Rockland High this year.
Students have been discussing the situation, and many rumors with varying degrees of truth have been spreading around the school. Principal Dr. Alan Cron recently sat down with the staff of The Veritas to discuss what happened this year and plans for future dances and school events.
The problems began in October, when two students were caught drinking at the Homecoming Dance and suspended from school and extracurricular activities.
The winter dance, usually hosted by the Student Government Council, was cancelled due to poor ticket sales, which some students relate back to the fear of breathalyzers due to the problems at Homecoming.
The ongoing discussions had calmed down by the Junior Prom on May 15 at Indian Pond Country Club, but more problems arose when three students were sent home and suspended from school for drinking. In addition, the school was notified several days later that there was considerable damage done to the plumbing systems at the venue due to students flushing small plastic liquor bottles down the toilets.
While Cron says there is no specific plan yet on how to pay back Indian Pond Country Club for the damages done to their pipes, he will say it is “very expensive.”
“The school has to pay. We become your parent in a way, and have to take responsibility. It’s not our fault but it’s our problem,” he added.
He also says it is virtually impossible to find the people actually responsible for flushing the bottles down the toilets.
To try to prevent any problems at Senior Prom on May 28, students were split by gender and searched by administrators as they boarded the buses following the Grand March in the school gym. At prom, chaperones were stationed in the bathrooms and a police detail (always present at schools dances anyway) was stationed near the entrance to the ballroom. There were also more administrators and adult chaperones at Senior Prom than have attended in previous years.
“We had a dean present. We also increased the bathroom circulation. [It has been rumored that] the problems that happened at the [Junior] prom began on the bus. In hindsight, we should have implemented what we did at senior prom,” he said.
Cron feels the student body is made up of three groups: those who don’t want to drink at dances, those who feel the need to in order to have fun, and those who are in the middle and unsure of the choice they want to make. He then said his goal is for those in the middle to know it’s fine to go to a dance and have fun without drinking.
“I finally figured out the reason I was so upset though it took me 48 hours to figure out what bothered me the most,” he said.
Cron was most disappointed in the status of the school’s reputation after the incident, and the fact the classmates that had nothing to do with it are now facing consequences.
“It was the 99% of the kids who have nothing to do with it whose reputations [were damaged],” he said.
The larger problem Cron is hoping will not become worse is the idea of teen drinking in general. While it has been specifically a problem at dances, it causes more of a concern on a larger scale outside of school.
“It’s a problem absolutely. It’s dangerous. I heard a startling statistic: a student that has their first drink at 14 is 60% more likely to develop a drinking problem. People who take their first drink at 21 are 6-8% more likely to form a drinking problem,” Cron said.
Cron said despite what happened at the Junior Prom, his trust level and admiration for the students in the class and at Rockland High hasn’t changed.
“I like you guys. I trust you guys to be your age. I am constantly amazed by some of the things kids do that don’t show their age but show their character and who they are. [The juniors] are some of the most kind, young and generous people I will ever meet,” he said.
Cron said that next year, searches and random breathalyzing, as well as increased chaperone presence, will continue at all dances.
“I think it’s a good idea to do a pat down coming into a dance. I think it’s a good idea to randomly breathalyze on the way out of the dance so nobody gets into a car with someone who has been drinking,” Cron said.
Students in the classes of 2015 and 2016 will be voting Wednesday to decide if there will be a joint junior-senior prom next year. Cron said the idea came up prior to the incidents at the prom and would be to save money, not punish students.
“I don’t want to mess with tradition,” he said. “Combining was something the class advisors and students leaders thought about.”
If students vote against it, Cron said two separate proms will go forward, and he has no plans to hold one in the gym as was rumored.
“I was upset about how unfair things are,” Cron said. “You win together, you lose together. I think we’re going to come out of this better than we went in.”