Students' parking permits revoked

Failure to attend safe-driving class at Mount Hebron causes loss for 33

April 21, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV SUN REPORTER | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV SUN REPORTER,SUN REPORTER

Thirty-three Mount Hebron High School students had their parking privileges revoked yesterday after failing to attend a mandatory safe-driving class that was prompted by the February accident that killed a classmate.

"We take safe driving very seriously," Principal Veronica Bohn told a group of 26 parents and students at the 45-minute session that started at 6:45 a.m.

High school students countywide were required at the start of the school year to attend a safe-driving class with a parent to receive parking privileges. At that time, 254 of the 1,417 students at the Ellicott City school received parking privileges.

But after an 18-year-old Mount Hebron senior was killed in a Feb. 17 car accident, Bohn required students take a second class -- again with a parent -- to retain their permits. Yesterday's session was the third and final opportunity students had to keep their permits.

Michele Iampieri, a front-seat passenger, was killed in the crash on Route 99 about a mile west of Mount Hebron.

Senior Theresa Rayburn, the driver, and Rayburn's boyfriend, Christopher Missett, who was in the back seat, were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and released on different dates.

The three students were going to the school about 9 p.m. to attend "Beach Bash II," a school dance. The car went off the road into a row of evergreen trees.

Police said they suspect alcohol and speed played a role in the accident, though results of a blood-alcohol test have not been released.

At the dance Feb. 17, security removed five students for underage drinking. One of the five students was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

Mount Hebron accounted for 18 of the system's 48 alcohol-related suspensions during the 2004-2005 school year.

Despite the disproportionate statistics, Sgt. John Paparazzo, supervisor of the school resource officers in the school system, said yesterday that Mount Hebron is no different than any other county high school.

"This is not a Mount Hebron problem," he said, adding that since Iampieri's death there have been two DWI arrests involving county students. "Simply put ... our educational efforts are not working."

Paparazzo told the group that police are being more aggressive in the effort to catch dangerous drivers.

"If you are speeding, driving aggressive, reckless, you will get a ticket," he said. "At some point you will lose your license, have it suspended and either your parents or we will stop you from driving."

Paparazzo also said officers would spend more time monitoring driving on the nights of school dances.

"There are going to be a number of us [patrolling]," he said.

Prom season starts this weekend for some county high schools.

Paparazzo added that in the future, students with tickets for moving violations might be denied a parking permit.

He also warned that police would target parents and establishments that provide alcohol to minors.

"It is a crime," Paparazzo said. "We need to start modifying [this] behavior."

Paparazzo added: "We can't do this on our own. The problem is, without some information from parents, we won't know where the kids are getting the alcohol."

For the students and parents attending yesterday's safe-driving class, most of the warnings and statistics had been heard before.

Still, Vicky Fausnacht, mother of a 16-year-old junior, said it was important.

"The children have to have [these warnings] reinforced," she said.

Fausnacht's son, Dane, said he didn't learn anything new.

"He was reinforced," his mother immediately interjected. "We tell him that drinking and driving is dangerous. He knows how serious it is."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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