GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 10, 2008

No alcohol found, but students face school discipline for drinking

By Patrick Anderson

MANCHESTER — Hamilton police said yesterday that none of the Manchester Essex Regional High School seniors found at a party in Chebacco Woods in Hamilton on Tuesday will face any charges, because no alcohol was found at the scene.

However, Manchester Essex Assistant Principal Paul Murphy said that some of the 22 students that had been identified as being involved in the incident are facing discipline because they admitted bringing a backpack full of beer to the party.

Hamilton police Chief Walter Cullen said yesterday no alcoholic beverages were found when Hamilton police responded to Chebacco Woods on Tuesday around 2 p.m. What they did find was between 20 and 25 high school students loitering near Chebacco Lake.

Cullen said if alcohol had been found, the students would have been charged with underage drinking. He said his department had been called by Manchester police and alerted that students were gathering in the woods while skipping school.

Manchester police Sgt. Todd Fitzgerald said yesterday that the group was found around 300 yards from a boat ramp at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton. He deferred all other questions to Hamilton authorities.

Murphy said yesterday that he had spent much of the day talking with students involved in the incident and had been told they had brought a backpack full of beer with them.

Murphy said 22 students had been identified as being involved and some of them were punished for breaking Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules prohibiting drinking by athletes. He would not say whether any students had been kicked off teams, or what punishments students who were not athletes faced.

"We have dealt with it in-house," Murphy said. "We appreciate the honesty of the kids and the efforts of both the Manchester and Hamilton police. Everyone was in school today and we are just happy that no one was hurt."

Murphy said the students skipped school as part of an outlawed, but long-standing custom called "senior skip day."

Patrick Anderson may be contacted at panderson@gloucestertimes.com.