School eyes bans after two parties

Liberty High students face ineligibility in sports, other activities

Rule on underage drinking

Alumnus videotaped New Year's Eve events at 2 houses

January 06, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Several Liberty High athletes and scholars who attended a New Year's Eve party at the home of a school counselor could be forced out of extracurricular activities -- including winter sports and the National Honor Society -- because of underage drinking.

As many as 20 students, nearly all of them seniors at the Eldersburg school, face disciplinary action that could affect college admissions and scholarships. The action includes making students ineligible for sports and extracurricular activities.

Liberty Principal Randy Clark said yesterday he has received information about two parties, one of which was held at the former residence of Les and Kathy Horneman, a Liberty High guidance counselor, and that he is conducting an investigation. He would not place a time limit on the inquiry.

"As information comes to us, we are investigating and interviewing," Clark said. "We will determine if any policies were violated and then make a decision if the student is ineligible and advise of what the impact is on them."

Clark has interviewed several students and a few have been removed from sports teams.

On the promise of anonymity, several parents spoke to The Sun about the parties, both of which were in Eldersburg. As many as many 100 students, including Hornemans' teen-age son, attended the first party Friday. Several of them later drove to Hornemans' former residence, which is vacant and for sale. The family has moved to another Eldersburg home.

"We never knew and never condoned a party at that house," said Les Horneman. "Those children were never invited there by us. We never knew they were there."

No parents were at either gathering, according to several students. A Liberty alumnus, attending college out of state, used a video camera to tape the festivities. Clark has the video.

"The tape shows kids drinking," said senior Kelly Shabinaw, who attended both parties. "There was a lot of drinking, mostly beer."

Former neighbors called Kathy Horneman -- her husband was at work -- early Saturday, telling her a car was parked in the middle of the street and something was amiss at the house. She confronted the teens at the house and confiscated the tape.

"Mrs. Horneman took my shoes, book bag and camera and told me if I wanted them back I had to have my parents call her," said Shabinaw. "She did it because she said she was concerned about us."

Carroll County school policy says students may not use alcohol or be in situations where underage drinking occurs -- on or off school premises. The penalty is ineligibility from school sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities for a minimum of 45 days. Spring sports will not be affected because the season does not open until mid-March.

"We view participation in sports or clubs as a privilege, not a right," said Cyndy Little, director of pupil services. "There are standards for participation and we expect students to maintain those standards."

The privilege includes a responsibility, said Les Horneman.

"People complaining about their kids being suspended from teams are missing the responsibility element -- the key to what we are trying to teach them," he said. "Their kids have failed to live up to that responsibility. If we don't teach responsibility, what is the point of being on a team or in a club?"

Carrie Ziemniak, vice president of the senior class and an honor student, said she did the responsible thing at the first party. She stayed at the first party, promising to drive several students who were drinking home. She was identified on the tape and called to the principal's office yesterday. Ziemniak did not drink, but according to school policy, she faces the same penalties.

"I am worried about my college applications," she said. "I would not leave the party because I knew some friends could not get home safely without me. I made a good decision."

Les Horneman said his wife turned over the tape to the principal -- "an action she took as a parent and as a school employee." He added that he would have informed the school even if the tape did not exist. He has also informed the principal at the private school his son attends.

"Any of us as parents in our community have a responsibility to maintain," said Little. "You can choose to close your eyes or to do something."

Horneman said that when he viewed the tape, he was appalled at the amount of alcohol being consumed. The students also damaged the home he is trying to sell, he said. He has not contacted the police.

"Someone could have become deathly ill," he said. "Several of them were obviously quite drunk."

Karen Steinnagel, whose sons are Liberty student athletes, said the policy is well-intentioned but seriously flawed because it affects only students who are in extracurricular activities.

"It is ironic that kids who are not involved in anything have nothing to lose," she said.

Said Les Horneman: "If you go to a party and you drink, you are out. Clark went through that policy last fall and made the penalty very clear. But, more to the point, these kids were drinking and nobody seems to care. Parents are missing the point. This drinking is a serious problem."

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