Chatham Township Police Lt. Steven Hennelly said the department may let school administrators take the lead in the investigation into four teens who arrived at a Chatham High School pep rally intoxicated Friday.
The students, three township residents and one borough resident, were transported to local hospitals by emergency personnel after school officials alerted police of their condition. All were under 18.
The township's juvenile officer will continue investigating the incident, but Hennelly said "sometimes it's better left to the school."
When asked what investigation the school is conducting into where the minors obtained the alcohol, Principal Darren Groh said, "That would be a police matter."
Hennelly said the department has "no idea of where [the students] got the alcohol from" and it is his understanding that "none of the four students are connected. ... It's not like there was one party and everybody was there."
Groh declined to comment on what disciplinary action the school took against the students, but he did confirm all four were cleared to return to school by a medical doctor.
"We handled the students who were intoxicated according to the alcohol policy adopted by the [Board of Education] and we're doing our best to support the students," Groh said.
A statement from township police mentioned three of the four teens. The fourth was a borough resident, Hennelly said, and "we only dealt with [the] three [township] teens."
Chatham Borough Police spokesman Kevin O'Shea said any police involvement in the incident will come out of the Chatham Township Police Department and not the borough.
Rowdy at the Rally
Groh estimated about half the student body, or "approximately 500 students," attended the rally. He said attendance was down compared to previous years, especially considering the school population has risen in recent years. He said there were "the regular number of chaperones," including himself, the school's two assistant principals, Lori Gironda and George Alexis, and at least six other staff members.
Student behavior in the pep rally was described as unruly, resulting in the rally ending early. Groh said the two incidents are "completely separate."
According to Groh, the pep rallies at Chatham High are scripted in advance by the Pep Club and allow "little down time so students can stay focused on athletics." On Friday, students deviated from the plan and, with that number of students, "a little loss of control" occurred, he said.
"I wouldn't pinpoint [the other students'] conduct to alcohol consumption," Groh said. "I think kids are excited about the start of the school year and the fall sports season. ... Their conduct at the pep rally and any consequences were completely separate from those four students."
The Future of Pep and Open Campus
Groh told the Board of Education Monday night he suspended Open Campus for the senior class for two weeks as a result of their behavior at the rally.
"When Open Campus returns on Oct. 3, I expect there will be no [further] incident that would change [the policy permanently]. ... It was an isolated incident and we handled it as such," he said in an interview with Chatham Patch.
Pep rallies, though, will not take place as they have in the past.
"If there's a different student event that the kids would like to have, I'm open to proposals for opportunities for the kids to show their school spirit," Groh said.