A Terra Nova High School dance was shut down Friday night after administration officials discovered about 15 students apparently inebriated, with many more possibly under the influence as well.
Some students were denied entry at the door because they had been drinking. Others were rooted out after they’d entered the dance, called the RANT Dance, according to Terra Nova Principal Jonathan Ferrer. Eventually, enough students were found to be under the influence that the dance was called off for safety reasons.
“We didn’t know how many students had been drinking, whether there were as many as 30, or 40 more, and we didn’t know how they might be getting home,” he said. “Students may have been taking other students home and we didn’t want to take that risk.”
Students were showing visual signs of intoxication, smelled of alcohol and were acting drunk, Ferrer said.
There are unconfirmed reports that some may have been vomiting on the dance floor.
The Pacifica Police Department was called and responded with the North County Fire Authority and ambulances, Ferrer said.
Paramedics treated some students at the scene, and one may have been transported in an ambulance, Ferrer said, but he wasn’t sure. It is also unclear whether any students were cited or arrested by police. The department has yet to respond to a phone call about the incident. North County Fire wasn’t available for an interview before publication of this article.
Parents were also notified. All parents, whether their student was found to be inebriated or not, received a quickly-formulated phone call about 9:15p.m. that evening stating the dance had been called off, police had been called and that they should pick up their students by 9:30p.m.
Laurie Frater, Jefferson Union High School District Trustee, was one such parent. His student wasn’t at the dance, he said, but he was saddened by the news, which he said is unusual for the district.
“Is this common? No, it absolutely isn’t,” he said. “I know teenagers are always going to try stuff, right? You can accept that as a premise, teenagers are going to be teenagers. Having said that, I feel very sad that a very small number of students have spoiled it for vast majority who are kids abiding by the rules.”
Ferrer said it didn’t appear that the students were drinking at the dance, but many may have gathered in their homes around town beforehand.
“Unfortunately, and I can’t confirm if this is true, students were saying that there were pre-parties before the dance at students’ homes where parents were present; those were just stories they were telling the administration after the dance was called off,” he said. “Whether or not parents knew of the drinking, they said some parents were apparently present.”
When students return to school on February 25 after President’s Week break, there may be suspensions ranging from three to five days depending on the severity of the infractions, Ferrer said.
Parents of the inebriated students may face punishment, too.
Under Pacifica’s social host ordinance, passed last year, an adult may be liable if underage drinking occurs within their home or on their property even if they are not home or do not know it is happening. A second offense could draw a $1,000 fine. If they were home and knew about the drinking, they could face charges of providing alcohol to a minor or worse.
The social host ordinance was a result of years of work after two teens were killed in a drunk driving accident in 2005.
“Alcohol consumption, from what I understand, in the city of Pacifica is an unfortunate part of the culture of the community,” Ferrer said. “I really want parents to know that as a school we are not going to accept that as part of the culture, it’s not going to be okay for us. We need parents to monitor students alcohol use, and we are asking that if parents are involved in this behavior to maybe model better choices for their students.”
Frater said future school events might be impacted by the events of Friday night.
“It absolutely shouldn’t have happened and it puts any future event like this, which is supposed to be fun thing, into jeopardy, “ he said. “High schools should be places students can feel an affiliation with and feel safe, above all else.”
A rally planned for Friday was also canceled because of poor behavior on the part of students, Ferrer said.
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