You don’t have to be a parent to know that sometimes, high school and even middle school students make bad decisions when it comes to mood-altering substances. No matter what their parents tell them, some teenagers will be motivated to drink alcohol or take illegal drugs, often through pressure from their peers. And if they’re caught by police, they may be arrested and face criminal charges in juvenile court.

This was the case of 47 juveniles who were arrested New Year’s Eve at an underage drinking party in Cranford, New Jersey. Police responding to a report of a fight outside a house found the teens there, determined they’d been holding a party with alcohol, and arrested them for violating a city ordinance that bans underage drinking. The ordinance comes with a fine of $250 for a first offense and $350 for subsequent offenses, as well as the potential loss of a violator’s driving privileges for six months.

Where the teens got the alcohol is unclear, because there were no adults present and therefore none were charged. But the party-goers were released to their parents pending juvenile court proceedings. A court date hasn’t yet been set.

The arrests prompted the city’s Board of Education to discuss whether to re-implement the Alcohol/Drug Assistance Program for Teens, which also goes by the acronym ADAPT. The school district’s program was once a mandatory course of action for students who were charged with committing an illegal act related to substance abuse, and included eight hours of extra instruction and community service. But the program was dropped about a year ago after a New Jersey Superior Court judge issued “the Indian Hills Decision,” which said the school doesn’t have the power to impose consequences if the offense takes place off school grounds and is not a school-sponsored activity, unless the outcomes have a “substantially disruptive effect” on in-school learning or activities.

Bringing the program back would be a violation of the Superior Court’s decision, but a member of the Board of Education who is also an attorney said because it didn’t come from the Appellate Division or the State Supreme Court, the judge’s decision isn’t binding. He added that anti-bullying legislation requiring schools to report on acts of bullying would also be in violation according to the Superior Court decision.

The juveniles arrested will already face charges in juvenile court. Should they also undergo school-imposed disciplinary action and penalties? A judge decided they shouldn’t, but school leaders disagree. What do you think?

Source:, “Cranford schools mull return of anti-drinking, drug program after arrest of 47 juveniles at party,” Barbara Rybolt, Jan. 11, 2012