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Bridgwater Raritan to crack down on teen drinking, tailgating at football games

Article by Sergio Bichao

BRIDGEWATER — School officials this week began warning parents and students that police will arrest anyone caught with alcohol during sporting events.

The announcement — first made by Superintendent Mike Schilder during Tuesday’s school board meeting — follows a Sept. 22 home game during which several teenagers were removed after being accused of being under the influence, school officials said.
While Schilder said he wants to “nip this (problem) in the bud,” drug-use surveys of teenagers in Somerset County and the state suggest more students are showing up to school drunk or taking drugs right under their teachers’ noses.
Schilder said an extra Bridgewater police officer will help patrol school grounds during the next home game Thursday against Immaculata High School. The district’s $18,000 high school security budget already pays for five police officers patrol after-school events.
School officials did not say how many students were involved in the Sept. 16 incident, or whether they faced disciplinary action, but officials said the students were pulled aside and released to their parents.
Schilder said that in the future people who are caught with alcohol on school property will be arrested and charged with a disorderly persons offense.
School board President Evan Lerner did not attend the Sept. 16 football game but said his daughter was there and saw a student “get ill” in the bathroom, likely from alcohol.
“I suspect it’s not uncommon,” Lerner said, adding that there is “some tailgating” by adults in the parking lots before high school games and that alcohol consumption tends to be a part of the professional “football mentality.”
“Tailgating at the Jets and Giants games is acceptable within reason,” he said. “But it doesn’t translate to high school football.”
Schilder did not return a call for comment, but did email a statement to the Courier News.
“I’m not sure how much of a problem this is at this point, but we want to nip it in the bud before it does become an even bigger problem,” he wrote Friday.
That may be too late, according to Sharon Lutz, executive director of Empower Somerset, a nonprofit that works with law enforcement to promote drug-abuse awareness and prevention programs.
Lutz said a growing number of teenagers are showing up to school intoxicated — and not just on alcohol.
Prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall, which are used to treat attention deficit and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, are being sold for $30 a pill on Somerset County high school campuses and consumed by students looking to boost their attention spans during standardized-testing periods.
Painkillers such as oxycodone, which can be used to get high, are selling for as much as $7.50 a pill, she said.
“Sports seem to be a breeding ground and the problem is very understated,” Lutz said. “The whole sporting event is another opportunity for the kids to conjugate and have fun together.”