Drinking by student-athletes at Taconic High School alleged

Saturday December 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Taconic High School Principal John Vosburgh said school officials are investigating allegations that a number of Taconic student-athletes were seen drinking alcohol furnished by adults, including school personnel, during a trip to a University of Connecticut football game.

Vosburgh said the incident reportedly took place during the football game between the University of Cincinnati and the University of Connecticut last Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.

"We’re definitely aware of the allegations from a number of sources," said Vosburgh.

"Obviously, Taconic and Pittsfield Public Schools do not condone any substance abuse, whether it’s our kids or adults," he said.

The principal said he and other personnel are currently on a "fact-finding mission" for an "ongoing investigation."

Though several adults and students have been questioned by the administration, no disciplinary actions have been taken, and their names have not been released.

It also is unclear whether the trip was a formally organized event through the school or whether it was coordinated as a social event among students and adults.

Vosburgh said all student-athletes, coaches and parents are required to sign an agreement to an athletic code of conduct. According to Pittsfield Public Schools’ online athletic handbook, under a section titled "Athletic Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Policy," student behavior expectations are highlighted, and the penalties for violating athletic code are listed.

"Participation in athletics is a privilege, not a right," the code states. "Student-athletes are in a highly visible setting of leadership and/or competition/performance. Therefore student athletes will be held accountable for their conduct and behavior when they choose to participate in athletics and represent the Pittsfield Public Schools."

The policy goes on to read that "a student shall not, regardless of quantity, use, consume, possess, buy/sell, or give away any beverage containing alcohol; any tobacco product; marijuana; steroids; or any controlled substance."

First-time offenders are subject to the minimum penalties of being suspended for a quarter of the games for the next consecutive sport season, but may be allowed to be engaged in practices. Multiple-time offenders may be subject to a full-year suspension for interscholastic athletic participation and may be assigned to a substance abuse treatment program.

The Pittsfield athletic handbook follows the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association guidelines.

According to the MIAA Coaches’ Code of Ethics, "The coach must be aware that he or she has a tremendous influence, either for good or bad, in the education of the student athlete. Š The coach shall take an active role in the prevention of drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse, and under no circumstances should authorize their use."

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