Merrimack Valley High School students arrested for drinking outside dance
A group of Merrimack Valley High School students was arrested last weekend when an officer found them drinking alcohol in the school’s parking lot before a school dance, according to the police.
The six females – three juveniles and three 17-year-olds – were arrested March 16 when an officer patrolling the dance heard loud music coming out of their car, asked the students to step outside and found a bottle of vodka in the back seat, the police said.
The names of the three juveniles have not been released. All six students – including 17-year-olds Autumn Hoyt of Penacook, Chloe Ford of Penacook and Emma Hamilton of Concord – have been charged with unlawful possession of alcohol and ordered to appear in Concord’s district court Friday.
Merrimack Valley High School Principal Mike Jette, citing confidentiality concerns, declined to comment on the incident yesterday or talk in general about how the school handles discipline around underage drinking. He called the matter still “raw for us at the moment.”
According to the police, the students were arrested after Jette, just before 7:30 p.m., asked an officer patrolling the dance to walk through the parking lot because he was planning on locking the doors to the school and wouldn’t be allowing anyone else inside. Officer Carl Notarngeli said in his report that while checking the parking lot he saw a vehicle parked with several people inside.
The officer said he pointed his flashlight at the car.
“I immediately saw one of the females pass a bottle and place it on the floor. . . . Some of the occupants were making quick movements as if they were placing items on the floor,” the officer wrote in his report.
Notarngeli said he could smell alcohol coming from the car when the students rolled the windows down. He asked them to step outside the car, then saw a bottle of Zhenka pink lemonade vodka on the floor of the back seat, according to the report.
The officer observed that the open “handle” of alcohol – a 1.75 liter bottle – was less than a third full.
All but one of the students agreed to take a breath alcohol test, and the officer noted that the juvenile who did not “was very quiet, had glassy eyes” and smelled like alcohol.
The police said the students were picked up by their parents and the car was driven home by Hamilton’s mother.
Concord police Lt. Timothy O’Malley said none of the students was charged with driving while intoxicated because the vehicle was parked at the time. But he said the police have a “heightened sense of concern” to underage drinking whenever vehicles are involved.
“Zero tolerance, that’s a practice we engage in here because experience has told us not to . . . do what might have been done 20 or 30 years ago where you say, ‘Okay kids, don’t let that happen again. Go into the dance,’ ” O’Malley said. “The feeling is if we get loose with repercussions, what’s to say they’re not going to do it (again) an hour or two hours later?”
The students have each been charged with a violation-level offense that carries a maximum fine of $1,000.