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Hope For a Safer Homecoming: TAG, Dodig Look for Sobering Solutions to Curb Fan Drinking

Sam Freeman ’11
Web A&E Editor

TURNING A NEW LEAF: 2010 homecoming is expected to be cleaner and safer than 2009. | Graphic by Connie Zhou '12

For years, the homecoming football game has been a time to celebrate the start of the school year and a place to show off the strong school spirit the student body has. However, after several instances of teen drinking marred last year’s homecoming game, similar problems this year could mean the end to this cherished event.

In response to the drinking that occurred last year, Principal John Dodig has changed the time of the football game to earlier than ever before. In hopes that students will make the right decision by not drinking, the game will now start at 10 a.m.

“You would need to wake up at 3 a.m. if you wanted to drink, so hopefully this will turn students away from doing that,” said Dodig.

The future of the homecoming game lies in the hands of the current senior class.

As a huge fan of school spirit, Dodig sees no reason for cancelling homecoming if students can act responsible and respectful.

However, he will not hesitate to cancel the event since he and the administration believe that they do not need to foster an event that encourages drinking.

“We need to gain back the trust and respect of our administrators and we would like to be remembered for having pulled together to clean up our homecoming act, instead of ruining it for everyone,” said Courtney Garzone ’11, vice president of the Teen Awareness Group (TAG).

This change in game time may anger the student body and hinder their pre-game plans, but the time will not affect the football team and cheerleading squad.

“I’m obviously not thrilled to lose a few hours of sleep the night before a game, but besides that, the change really doesn’t affect us that much,” said football captain Chris Coyne ’11.

While adjusting the time may eliminate the amount of drinking, the administration and TAG will be teaming up to provide additional information on the consequences of drinking before the game and the risks of binge drinking; which, according to Chris Lemone the Student Outreach Counselor, is drinking a lot in a short amount of time.

The members of TAG are trying to prevent students from binge drinking, said Caela McCann ‘11, president of TAG.

“We are trying to spread awareness about the dangers of binge drinking so that students can make safe and healthy decisions, and we can prevent the mess that happened last year,” said Garzone.

During spirit week (the week leading up to the homecoming game), seniors will view a movie about a boy who tragically died due to binge drinking, presented by TAG. This assembly will inform seniors on binge drinking. Their hope is that the student body will be able to attend the game and have fun without the alcohol-induced sloppiness and danger of last year.

“We are asking the student body to remember that homecoming – the actual game – is supposed to be a celebration,” said McCann. “And a key part of this celebration is actually watching the game, cheering for the team, and respecting the effort that all teams put forward for their games.”

If students do decide to drink and get caught for doing so, major consequences will follow, said Dodig.

Seniors will get the privilege of parking taken away while juniors will not even be allowed the opportunity to be a part of the parking lottery. In addition, students will be suspended from school, which could interfere with losing credit.

Although these penalties are set forth, some seniors still have decided that they will participate in illegal activities before the game this year.

“I plan on drinking before the game because what happened last year has not affected me and I want to celebrate my senior year,” said a senior boy who has requested to stay anonymous.

In regards to pre-game festivities such as the motorcade, the school has no affiliation with this event and has put all of the responsibility of it with in the Westport Police.

For seniors, so much hype has been building around their last homecoming and the traditions such as the motorcade that they will be able to participate in.

In response to what occurred last year, it has become unrealistic to run motorcade again this year, said Captain Foti Koskinas of the Westport Police and an alumni of Staples High School.

Unlike what students may believe, Koskinas, a former Staples senior and football captain is not looking to get kids in trouble. He wants the seniors to be able to participate in this amazing tradition but cannot possibly handle all of the liabilities that come with it.

While the police will not be getting involved this year, “students are allowed to organize a smaller version of motorcade if the rules of the road are followed and if everyone’s actions are controlled and respectful,” said Koskinas.

After the crashes and students falling out of cars last year, if the police did volunteer to be in charge this year, then more officers will need to be hired and more rules would need to be in place, which is impossible to do.

“With all the rules that would need to be implemented, then the students would not have fun and it would be a waste of time for everyone,” said Koskinas.

In general, the police have no intentions of breaking anything up and are hoping for a successful homecoming where they will not have to get students in trouble.

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