Authorities make string of underage drinking arrests from Facebook photos

January 13, 2008 10:00:00 PM PST
A group of suburban teenagers has been arrested for underage drinking, and authorities say they learned about the incident through the Web site Facebook. It may be the tip of the iceberg and could lead to other charges. Police are investigating a second party allegedly hosted by another Lombard parent. Glenbard East school officials are trying to use this as an opportunity to get the attention of students.

On January 5, a party at a house in Lombard was apparently the hot spot for some partying teens. A DuPage County sheriff's deputy found pictures of Glenbard South and East high school students at the party on Facebook pages.

Four students shown drinking were charged with possession of alcohol by a minor, and one, Jessica Holz, was charged with the delinquency of a minor. A sheriff's spokeswoman said Holz hosted the party.

Nineteen students were identified in the photos. Eleven of them were student athletes and will be suspended from 20 percent of their seasons.

The principal says early exposure to alcohol and drugs can lead to addiction. She is troubled by parents who contributed to teen drinking.

"We care, and we want you to refrain from drugs and alcohol. It's a message that we send all the time. Does it get a bit frustrating when you have people that don't go along with the message? Of course.," said Terri Hanrahan, Glenbard South principal.

At Glenbard East, five students were identified in the photos, and one student athlete was disciplined, but those photos caused police to open a separate investigation into a parent-hosted party on New Year's Eve.

"We always hope it doesn't take a car accident, fatality, a date rape to get people's attention. You hope that those tragic consequences are the things to make students change their behavior," said Bob McBride, Glenbard East principal.

While police questioned students Monday about the second party, most students prepared for exams, and some expressed disappointment by the actions of some classmates.

"It's finals week and sometimes the stress just builds up and you need a release, but it's not the way to do it," said Alyssa Nelson, Glenbard East student.

"I don't think that most people are using their Facebook and their MySpace for those purposes. Those people who are, are making wrong decisions," said Marybeth Kram, Glenbard East student.

Holz' attorney says she has never been in any trouble and is overwhelmed by this response. Holz said she feels this has been blown out of proportion. She is due back in court next month.

The school's policies say athletes sign a code of conduct and commit to not be in the presence of drugs or alcohol, but all of the students involved and their parents had conferences with school administrators and shown the Facebook photos.