School hopes arrests don't overshadow team

Principal: Students warned 'no drinking'
March 23, 2009 2:58:56 PM PDT
Nineteen students were temporarily suspended from Whitney Young High School after being cited for underage drinking. The teens were arrested early Saturday morning by Illinois State Police at a Super 8 Motel near Peoria, Ill. the students were in Peoria to watch a high school basketball tournament. The Whitney Young boy's team won the 4 A Championship title for the first time since 1998.

About 400 students from Whitney Young High School were in Peoria to watch the boys basketball team take on Waukegan in the state championship game. Michael Simkins, who also stayed at the Super 8 but did not attend the party, said his school is getting a bad rap.

"I feel like we are getting labeled here and it's not really true. We went down there to celebrate a big victory and support the basketball team," said Michael Simkins, Whitney Young High School student.

Principal Joyce Kenner said she hopes the arrests will not overshadow the team's first state title win since 1998. She said the students involved will have to face the consequences of their actions.

"Once we sort out all of this, we will meet out the necessary punishment for those students and move forward. We understand students do stupid things-- that's why we call them adolescents. We will punish them and move forward," said Principal Kenner.

She also said the teens had fair warning.

"Those students were warned at the pep rally on Thursday. I stopped everything at the pep rally to say to those students, juniors and seniors in particular that we were concerned about their safety. No drinking and driving. No drinking at all," said Principal Joyce Kenner, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School.

Twenty-seven teenagers were cited at the motel party. It took officials awhile to determine how many of them were students at Whitney Young, but they determined 19 of the teens attend Whitney Young. The remaining students attend other schools.

According to police, 83 students who were in Peoria for the games were arrested in four separate underage drinking incidents over the weekend.

The students who were arrested were not part of a district sanctioned trip, according to a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson. They will appear in Tazewell County Court on April 22.