A judge temporarily halted the suspension of a student track team member who was accused of attending a party where beer was available to teenagers. The judge wrote that attending a party where alcohol was present did not constitute underage possession. The judge added that the student, Mary McAvoy was likely to win after a full hearing of the case.
More than 40 students were accused of attending the party. All students involved with an extra-curriculur activity were given suspensions from those activities. 30 of the students accepted the punishment. But 10 of the students (Libertarian Rockstars) filed a suit against the school charging that they were denied “any of the due process and procedural safeguards available” as a student attending Walpole High School.
The punishments against the students are as astonishing as the protests by the students and parents. Several of the parents complained that the police compiled a list of partygoers based on hazy second-hand accounts. The police did not show up at the party. Instead they learned about the party from someone who attended the party and then, through interviews, compiled the list of partygoers. Parents also complained that many students attended the party but did abstained from alcohol.
According to Massachusetts law, “mere presence” at a party with alcohol available to minors does not consistute underage drinking. However, the local police chief, who lead the Soviet-style roundup, said Massachusetts courts have ruled that teenagers are guilty of possession of alcohol when they attend a party where they have access to beer, even if they abstain. One wonders whether this applies to the typical six-pack of beer or bottle of wine that is present in most households.
The courts will ultimately decide and the winds of justice appear to be in favor of the teenagers at the moment. Many thanks to the teenagers and parents who are taking the time to fight the suspensions.