Police, municipal officials and school administrators expressed surprise at after arriving at a pep rally intoxicated Friday night.
Lt. Steven Hennelly said he has found recently that "alcohol use among minors in Chatham seems to be on a great decline." Reports of underage drinking have fallen in the last several months, and the summer, in particular, had fewer incidents of intoxicated minors than past years, Hennelly said.
The last case of underage alcohol consumption Hennelly could recall took place in May when Mia Flannery of Chatham Township, then 18, caused a car accident at Fairmount Avenue and Southern Boulevard while allegedly under the influence of alcohol.
Borough Mayor Nelson Vaughan said the Municipal Alliance Committee with Chatham Township met on Sept. 14 with representatives from the two towns' police departments. He said they had "no incidents of teens getting drunk over the summer," Vaughan said. "Apparently, it was a very quiet summer."
According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, 305 New Jersey municipalities, more than 50 percent of the state's communities, have an ordinance that prohibits minors from consuming alcohol on private property. Chatham Borough and Chatham Township are not among those municipalities.
"I think we should have an ordinance like that in Chatham, I really do," Vaughan said Tuesday.
Tom Belding, the president of the Board of Education, read a prepared statement Monday during the board's discussion of the issue at the open public meeting.
Belding's statement included the following questions for the board and the school district to consider:
"Was Friday night a coincidence, or was the Pep Rally in some way a catalyst for this behavior? Is it a sign of an underlying issue we can influence?
Are our policies and procedures sufficient to discourage this behavior, and to moderate risks—particularly to individuals? Should we put more emphasis on substance abuse education, discipline and communicating with parents?
Do we need to permanently reconsider holding these types of events, or the punitive measures that apply if students violate our code of conduct?"
Belding also said teenagers "are surrounded by images that unduly popularize alcohol consumption" and "we—the parents, the school and the community—must instill strong values, self-esteem and high expectations in these young people. It's clear we can be doing a better job."
Editor's note: A previous version of this article quoted Mayor Nelson Vaughan as saying that he heard from Project Community Pride that there were no incidents with Chatham teens drinking during the summer of 2011. The information came from the Municipal Alliance and not Project Community Pride. The article has been corrected and Chatham Patch apologizes for the error.