15 Milford athletes suspended from teams

MILFORD — The athletes disciplined for attending an underage drinking party seem genuinely sorry, Milford High School Principal Brad Craven said this week.

Fifteen members of the football, girls soccer and field hockey teams were suspended from team activities for 21 days following a Sept. 5 underage drinking party at the home of the girls soccer coach, who was out of town.

Neither the coach nor any other parents were aware that the party was going on, the police chief said Monday.

Police responded to 80 Noon’s Quarry Road at about 11:26 p.m. that night after someone called to report an underage drinking party. They found 23 young people, 15 of whom police determined were drinking.

Craven said he learned about the situation the following Monday, Sept. 7, from Athletics Director Marc Maurais, and the student athletes were given a hearing.

Since then the students have either spoken to him or given him “heartfelt letters of apology” saying they realized they have failed their coach, their school and their parents.

There was “genuine remorse,” he told The Cabinet on Monday. “They recognize they went off the rails, and they appeared to be extremely forthcoming and contrite.”

The party was held at the home of girls soccer coach John Vlachos, who was out of town and unaware of the party. Fifteen of the teens who were 17 and older received summonses for internal possession of alcohol; Vlachos’ 18-year-old son also received a summons for facilitating an underage drinking party.

“No parents knew that the party was taking place,” Police Chief Fred Douglas said.

Four juveniles also attended the party, and two of them had consumed alcohol; their cases will be forwarded to the department’s juvenile division, said Douglas.

Five other young adults were found not to be drinking and they will be charged appropriately, he said.

All the parents were contacted, and the young people were released into their custody.

“We have zero tolerance for underage drinking parties,” said Douglas. “We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. It doesn’t matter if they are a student, an athlete or a non-athlete. We are not playing favorites because they are athletes. They should be held to a higher standard.”

One member of the football team who asked to remain anonymous told The Cabinet there was only beer and no hard liquor or drugs at the party.

“We just wanted to have a few beers and hang out,” he said. “This was not Animal House.”

Police showed up after about 35 minutes and entered the house, he said, because one of the partygoers was outside on the porch with a beer, smoking a cigarette.

The student said he objected to comments on The Telegraph’s Web site that suggest students aren’t being sufficiently punished. Along with the team suspensions, he said, teachers are frowning on the students and some honor roll students may lose their scholarships.

“Being kicked off the football team as a senior” is a major punishment, he said.

The student athlete handbook calls for a 21-calendar day suspension from activities as the penalty for drinking alcohol.

All of them were aware of the potential consequences, Craven said. Each athlete receives the athletic handbook, and they each sign an acknowledgement form saying they will refrain from using tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.

“I hope (the young people) look at it on many levels,” said Craven, including their own behavior and the impact on their health, and how they affect other lives and people who depend on them. What’s important is that afterward they comport themselves with grace, honesty and dignity.” He said he hopes that parents will follow through at home.

Craven said only two parents complained about the discipline, and their only issue was the school’s request that the suspended athletes stay away from the games. The two parents felt the students would learn a lesson from attending the games and not participating — “a difference of opinion,” said Craven.

At a football game against ConVal Regional High School on Sept.11 more than half the Milford starters were not in uniform.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Suprenant told the School Board about the incident in non-public session on Sept. 8, “to ensure the confidentiality of all who were involved,” he said Monday.