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9 AHS students get 10-day suspensions in bullying

Villano reaches out to parents; successful dance reported

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All nine Arlington High School students involved in alcohol-related bullying incident in which a female student was injured have received 10-day suspensions, interim Principal Mary Villano said Wednesday, Nov. 21.

"During the course of the investigation" of what she called an assault, Villano wrote in an email to parents and guardians Tuesday, Nov. 20, "it became very evident that the use of alcohol was a strong contributing factor to the behaviors exhibited that night.

"This concerns us. We are reaching out to you, our parents and community members, to continue to partner with us to educate our children on the dangers of destructive decisions."

After learning about the incident last weekend, she said the school's administrators and Ned Walsh, the school resource officer, "immediately began a thorough investigation."

She wrote that the deans interviewed many students with their parents to determine the facts leading up to and during the incident. "Once all of the facts

were obtained, several students were assigned serious disciplinary consequences," she wrote. "I am confident that our investigation was thorough and the discipline issued was immediate and appropriate."

In the email, she did not say what the discipline was, or how many were affected, but she responded to a request from YourArlington.

"Presently, we are working with the Arlington Police Department to ensure the safety of all students at AHS," she continued in the Nov. 20 email. "We will continue to provide opportunities for students to express their feelings and concerns about bullying with trusted adults in the school and in advisory periods."

She wrote that the administration would continue to work with the Arlington Youth Health & Safety Coalition  

to facilitate conversations with the community, around underage alcohol use by students.

"In closing, I encourage you to speak to your children about healthy decision making. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to collaborating with you on all important issues involving our children."

The incident is reported to have occurred at a sporting event, but details could not be learned.

Asked the location, date and time of the incident, Capt Richard Flynn of Arlington police wrote in an email Nov. 21:

"This is an ongoing investigation. Pursuant to the law, any information in conjunction with, including the report itself, will be released publicly upon the completion of the investigation."

Junior/Senior semiformal

In contrast to this report, the Junior/Senior semiformal dance at AHS drew praise from parent Karen Dillon. She told the Arlington email list Nov. 21: "I want to publicly congratulate and thank Mary Villano and staff for not giving up on our kids."

Villano reported in her monthly newsletter that 172 students attended. Apparently, the numbers were lower because students faced Breathalyzers. More than 300 usually attend.

Dillon wrote to the email list that Villano "has has a firm stance on a zero-tolerance policy toward teen drinking before or during school events.

"Mary and other school staff have been meeting with students to try and determine how to have 'safe' dances and lift the previous moratorium. This has been a collaborative and controversial effort."

That has been continuing since January after a dance last November resulted in the removal of two students who had been drinking.

"At first, there were grumblings among the student body that the dance would be poorly attended, because some kids just couldn't imagine having a dance with these new policies," Dillon continued.

"Ticket sales lagged. I heard kids talking about how sad it was that some students wouldn't consider coming to a dance sober.

"Students were concerned that their friends and classmates are so insecure and self-conscious that the only way they can feel free is to be under the

influence .... that a sober dance was 'lame' or uncool. That being intoxicated is the only way to have a good time.

"Luckily, the dance was very well attended, and the many teens I've talked to reported having a fantastic time. 'Best Dance ever!' many have said.

"The teachers who volunteered their time to chaperone were not wiping up vomit, picking up empties or helping sick teens. They looked happy and proud of their students. There was minimal to no drama. No fist fights. No one got sick or had to be taken to the hospital.

"Instead, this was in inclusive experience. There was a great new DJ, fantastic decorations and light show, loads of food and those kids who are usually too intimidated by the rowdy kids actually were able to come out and dance on the floor and have a blast. All of the student body interacted on the dance floor.

The dance was not dominated by any one group of kids.

"These new guidelines for school dances were put in place as a collaboration between the student body and the administration and clearly quite effective."

This story was published Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

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