As one of Staples High School’s oldest traditions, the homecoming football game is meant to be a time to celebrate school spirit, along with starting the school year off with a bang! This year, students definitely expressed their spirit, however they lacked sobriety.
With three girls sent to Norwalk Hospital, and eight other students sentenced with in-school suspensions, for consumption of alcohol prior to the game, the 2009 homecoming event was the talk of the Staples community.
Principal John Dodig explained how he was disappointed with his student body, yet believes that “We are an outstanding school; we’ll get this under control.” With a morning announcement throughout the loudspeakers of the school, along with a letter to Westport parents asking for suggestions on how to deal with this drinking problem, Dodig has already taken steps to prepare for a sober homecoming in 2010.
Staples students voiced strong opinions regarding the loudspeaker announcement, in which Dodig used sarcasm to get his point across. “The students deserved a slap in the face,” said Courtney Garzone ’11, “but the sarcasm definitely was not necessary.”
From an adult perspective, Varsity Boys Soccer Coach Dan Woog elucidated how the game was embarrassing for the school. On the other hand, “Kids make mistakes, so hopefully they got it out of their system and learned from this.”
Student Outreach Counselor Chris Lemone stated, “The announcement was effective in regard to getting people’s attention.” With this newfound acknowledgement, Lemone plans on challenging the Teen Awareness Group (TAG) with ideas on how to teach responsible drinking habits.
In response to his sarcastic comments, Dodig admits that he should not have been sarcastic, but that he was angry and hurt. “There is no place for sarcasm,” he said, “but the message remains the same.”
Dodig’s letter also stirred up conversations amongst parents. He received over 150 responses from parents apologizing for their children’s behavior at the game; replies even included their input on how to change the future of Staples traditions. He believes that it’s a community issue, and wanted to make the public aware of it.
Suggestions included hosting an assembly to teach responsible drinking tendencies, breathalyzing to prove innocence in the following year, signing a contract promising not to consume alcohol prior to the game, or even threatening removing parking privileges from students if caught under the influence.
However, Dodig strongly continues to believe that the biggest contribution to his students drinking is their parental influence. “Unfortunately, we learn by example,” explained Dodig. He further stated how if parents drink around the house, and are accepting of their children when they drink, parents are being hypocritical and not teaching a good lesson.