Arrest of 47 Teens Leads School Board to Reconsider Drug, Alcohol Policy

After New Year's Eve incident involving the arrest of several local students, the Board of Education will discuss reinstating its ADAPT program.

The arrest of 47 juveniles during a New Year's Eve party for underage drinking has led school board members to consider reviving the district's drug-and-alcohol policy.

At a meeting Monday night, the New Year's Eve bust prompted board member Michael Caulfield to propose a motion to revive ADAPT, the Alcohol/Drug Assistance Program for Teens. The board is expected to vote on the issue during its Jan. 23 meeting.

According to Lt. James Wozniak, at 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, police were called to a home on Garden Street on a report of a fight taking place in that area. When police arrived, they discovered a "large number of juveniles on the scene. After a brief investigation, it was determined that an underage party was being held with alcohol on the premise," according to the official police report.

The 47 juveniles were processed on the scene and charged with violating Cranford Township Ordinance 58-16, which prohibits underage possession/consumption of alcohol on private property. Many of the teens were 15 to 18 years old and students at . The ordinance was approved in 2001 and prohibits anyone "under the age of 21" from possessing or consuming alcohol on private property. All of the juveniles were released to adults at the scene with Juvenile Court proceedings pending. There were no adults charged in the incident. Wozniak said the penalty for the first offense is a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses could result in a fine of $350 and the court also could suspend or postpone the offender’s driving privileges for up to six months if found guilty.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy in this town against kids drinking and using drugs and it's strictly enforced," Wozniak said, adding that, "the matter has been turned over to the juvenile court."

After hearing about the incident, Caulfield decided to make the motion to re-instate the policy.

"I made the motion to re-instate the ADAPT program in the form we had about a year ago, prior to the Indian Hills Superior Court decision in Bergen County," Caulfield said. The board member explained that the prior version of the policy had tiered consequences "for students who were charged by the police, or otherwise apprehended, as intoxicated or in possession of alcohol or drugs."

"Among those consequences were suspension from playing sports or participating in afterschool clubs for first-offender students who had been charged and failed to comply with the demands of the ADAPT program. There were other, more strict consequences for second offenders," Caulfield added. "The Indian Hills decision seemingly removed the school district's right to apply its ADAPT program if the incident in question occurred 'off campus' at a non-school related function/event, unless the upshot of the event caused substantial disruption at the school and interference with the education."

Superintendent of Schools Gayle Carrick emphasized that the policy can only be enforced if students are caught drinking or in possession of alcohol at a school-related function.

"Not off school property," she said.

Caulfield believes there is an ongoing problem with underage drinking in Cranford and that officials need to address it head-on.

"Given that the Indian Hills decision did not set binding precedent on Union County courts — or any other NJ court, for that matter — and given that the HIB (Harassment Intimidation and Bullying) law, which does bind all courts in the New Jersey, states that school districts must address incidents that occur away from school; and given that we, Cranford, had an incident over New Year's Eve where some 47 CHS students, allegedly 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds were apprehended for possessing and/or consuming alcohol at a party at a private residence, and given that a CHS student was recently caught smoking marijuana at a school function, and given that, over the years, we have witnessed horrific events that arose from students' drinking," Caulfield said.

He added that "it is common knowledge that there is an ongoing, underage drinking problem in Cranford."

"I believe that we must stop running scared of a non-binding court decision and reinstate our ADAPT policy in the hope that its application just might help to deter students' unlawful alcohol consumption, which deterrence might prevent further deaths or injuries to the underage drinkers or to the victims of those underage drinkers."

School Board President Mary Venditti said she will support the re-examination of the policy to see if it can be re-instated to include consequences for students caught drinking at non-school functions.

"I want to look at it again. I'm anxious to see where we left off," Venditti said. "We have to do something. We can't just leave things the way they are."

The board president is hoping the entire board will agree to revisit the issue.

"To those adults who say: it's my personal business to enforce the law with my child, I say: Do so, but for those whose efforts aren't effective, I would rather have this policy in action with whatever effects it can bring to bear to assist you 'enforcing' parents, and to help prevent injury or death to the underage drinkers and their victims whose parents, of which we know from New Year's Eve, there are at least 47, are not effective in preventing their children from underage drinking," Caulfield said.

Jim January 12, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Maybe the answer is for parents to allow responsible, monitored consumption of alcohol with the family at dinner or family functions. The key here is developing responsible individuals who know their limits. Trying to shield kids from alcohol is silly and ignorant. They will all go to college and party their faces off, and the hard lessons of alcohol will be taught by bad decisions, and rough nights bowing down to the porcelain throne. Ultimately, the school should educate all students about the effects of alcohol, without trying to scare them away from it. They do not, however have any business punishing students for things at non school functions.
Monk January 13, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Jim, schools should stick to academic subjects. Parents and pastors should teach moral lessons. In today's culture, it seems that sex at a young age is more accepted than drinking at a young age. Doesn't anyone else think that's crazy? Parents can instill respect and caution when it comes to consumption of alcohol, if they want. Young people can harmlessly learn to drink in moderation with their parents and older siblings. On the other hand, parents are totally undermined if their goal is to instill respect and caution with regard to sex ... thanks to liberal government and Hollywood.
Andy Jacksonian January 14, 2012 at 08:48 AM
Is Jim a saloon owner or have a drinking problem himself? I just can't believe that a responsible adult would or could write such a banal irresponsible comment. Booze is bad for children and adults alike ... period. You can't make it more simpler and honest than that. - Former Publican (who still has enough brain cells remaining to recall all the patrons who drank their paychecks and their children's meals and clothing away, all the patrons who rapped their cars around telephone polls killing themselves or killed other motorists after leaving my joint, all the patrons who made drunken fools of themselves hurting their friends and families, etc, etc, etc)
Joe January 15, 2012 at 06:12 PM
It seems that European countries with lower drinking ages do not have the same problem as we do. Kids starting to drink under supervision develop a greater sense of awareness. Teenager are going to drink, regardless of what the consequences are because 9 times out of 10 they get away with it. Andy, perhaps we should turn communist and not even let people have any life decisions for themselves.
Michele January 16, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I agree with Tom. In today's culture it seems that random sex with multiple partners is perfectly OK but get caught drinking and life stops! I am not condoning underage drinking but the reality is that it happens and it always will. Lastly, Mr. Caufield states that "it is common knowledge that there is an ongoing, underage drinking problem in Cranford." He almost makes it sound as if this is problem with Cranford itself when the truth of the matter is that EVERY town in the US could say the same.
Justice Ruff January 17, 2012 at 03:24 PM
The Cranford Police have taken this one too far, once again. They have nothing better to do than bust a bunch of kids on New Years Eve. They didn't even let them see the god damn ball drop before they went in guns blazing. Now lets be honest here, we were all getting shit faced on New Years when we were their age so why do they feel they have the right to get this many kids in trouble. The school has absolutely no right to get involved in this. All of these kids now have to go to court and are facing up to 500 dollars in fines a piece all because they went to a party that all of you would have been compelled to attend if you were their age. There is even a state law, the Indian Hills Decision, that states the school doesn't have the right to get involved in any incident that is not at a school function or on school grounds. So who's right is it to decide that Cranford is above the law. I will have you know that I am a parent who was adversely affected by this and now my child who didnt even drink at that party has to suffer because the Cranford Police department and all these parents have got something stuck up their ass. - I welcome any responses
Michele January 17, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I have to agree in part. I think that you have to realize that once called to the scene, the cops had no choice but to take the kids into custody. If they had not done so, and someone left that party and was then injured or killed the police themselves would have been in trouble. You have to understand that they could not just walk away. That being said I probably would have made every kid call his parent(s) and have that parent pick him up. I'm sure there is many a cop who did the same or similar when they were a kid. Also, the school should NOT be involved at all! This is between parent and child and if it is not on school property it is NOT the schools business. Most people feel the same. Mr. Caufiled remarked that there is an underage drinking problem in Cranford. Well EVERY town with teens has that problem. It is not endemic in Cranford alone.
Jean April 20, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I agree that the schools should NOT be involved with outside things. They are to teach our kids, but we know that they don't! They would rather find the bad and address those issues first. As far as I know we still have some freedom and rights. If they schools want that much power than they can start paying for their clothes, food, and any other expense that comes up in raising a child. They seem to want full control of your child anyway. Jean
DJ September 07, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Justice, the only response to you is that you are an ass and a big part of the problem.


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