WESTBROOK — School officials have suspended high school athletes who were at a drinking party Tuesday night, including at least three players from Westbrook High School’s baseball team, the defending state champion.
The suspended students include the son of a school board member who was criticized for her involvement in the discipline of students after a drinking party in October.
Westbrook schools’ Athletic Director Marc Sawyer said Thursday that a “handful” of student-athletes have been suspended from “multiple” teams because they were charged by police or told school officials that they were at the party on Sargent Street.
Westbrook police charged 11 teenagers with underage drinking and other violations. One of those teenagers was kicked off the Southern Maine Community College baseball team Thursday.
Officials’ response to the incident is under intense scrutiny because it comes less than six months after about 30 Westbrook High student-athletes were suspended from their teams for attending a party where there was alcohol. Those suspensions were quickly overturned, prompting an outcry from the community, an independent investigation and an ongoing discussion about the school’s alcohol policies and enforcement.
Westbrook police said Thursday that two 18-year-olds were arrested and nine other teenagers were issued court summonses after officers responded around 11:40 p.m. Tuesday to a neighbor’s complaint of a large, loud party at 6 Sargent St.
Police said they saw people running as they arrived at the home, where officers found open containers of alcohol. Officers met with Ryan Gilligan, 18, who identified himself as a resident of the home and the person responsible for what was happening there.
Police encountered 12 more people at the home, all younger than 21, and found that “several had consumed alcohol,” the department said in a written release.
Westbrook Public Safety Director Michael Pardue said he didn’t know where Gilligan’s parents were at the time of the party. Asked whether they could be charged, he said the incident “remains under investigation.”
No one answered the phone or came to the door at the Gilligans’ home Thursday.
Gilligan was arrested and charged with refusing to submit to detention and furnishing a place for minors to drink.
Owen Gillis, 18, of Portland was arrested on a charge of refusing to submit to detention, and summonsed on a charge of consumption of liquor by a minor.
Also summoned on charges of consumption of liquor by a minor were:
• Collin Joyce, 18, of Westbrook.
• Briana Ibarguen, 19, of Westbrook.
• Brett Goodnow,18, of Westbrook.
• Tristian Savage, 18, of Westbrook.
• Cale Bollig, 19, of Westbrook.
• Shawn McKeough, 19, of Westbrook.
Three people younger than 18 also were summonsed on charges of consumption of liquor by a minor. Their names were not released.
Gilligan, Joyce and Savage are on the high school baseball team’s roster. Gilligan, a right-fielder, and Joyce, a shortstop, started in the team’s season opener Tuesday.
Joyce’s mother, School Committee member Suzanne Joyce, said her son quit the team Wednesday.
“Our son was regrettably involved. We are extremely disappointed,” said Joyce. “He removed himself immediately yesterday from the team, and he understands he has let down his teammates and others, and we’d like to deal with it privately.”
Suzanne Joyce has been criticized for her involvement in the suspensions that were overturned last fall. Her son was among the student-athletes who were suspended then.
An independent investigation into that incident faulted Joyce for giving the appearance of influencing school administrators, but stopped short of accusing her of doing so.
Joyce said Thursday that she and her husband supported the administrators’ decision to suspend her son last fall. “I never used undue influence,” she said.
MORE ATHLETES SUSPENDED
Tuesday’s party quickly led to athletic suspensions.
Superintendent Marc Gousse said he and Principal Jon Ross agreed that any student-athlete whose name had been publicly released in connection with the party should not play in any of the school’s games this week, including a baseball game scheduled Friday.
“None of these kids should be taking the field,’’ said Gousse. “I want to be really clear about that. And I don’t mean just the baseball field. That includes the lacrosse field, the track, tennis courts. This is non-sport specific.”
School officials wouldn’t say exactly how many students have been suspended, or from which teams.
Several coaches at Westbrook High would not allow their athletes to be interviewed Thursday, saying they had games scheduled Friday and did not want any further distractions.
Josh Plowman, the boys’ lacrosse coach, said he spoke to his players about Tuesday’s incident even though none was involved.
“What we try to really reinforce to the kids is that they are representing Westbrook lacrosse,” he said. “It is important to make good decisions.”
Plowman agreed that penalties must be handed out when the school’s code of conduct is broken.
“With lacrosse, our kids know that if they were to go and do something like this, whether the school is going to enforce a penalty or not, I will enforce a penalty,” he said.
Southern Maine Community College baseball coach Jared Lemieux learned Thursday that Brett Goodnow, 18, a freshman infielder for the Seawolves and a graduate of Westbrook High, was charged with consumption of liquor by a minor.
Soon after, Matt Richards, SMCC’s athletic director, announced that Goodnow “failed to meet our code of conduct standards and has been removed from our (baseball) team.”
SEVERAL REPEAT OFFENDERS
Westbrook’s baseball team also made unwelcome news last summer, when a dozen members of the team caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to golf carts at South Portland’s Wainwright Athletic Complex. Each one agreed to pay $500 and do 40 hours of community service. They were not charged and their names were not released.
Pardue, Westbrook’s police chief, said his department is familiar with some of the teenagers who were charged Tuesday because they have been involved in previous incidents. He said he finds that particularly troubling.
“I really worry there’s going to be some type of tragic event,” he said.
The drinking party in October made news after the athletes’ suspensions were overturned right before a playoff game for Westbrook’s football team. Community members complained about favoritism.
Since then, the high school has taken several steps aimed at improving its alcohol policies and enforcement. Community forums have been held to discuss the school’s culture. The latest, on April 15, focused on substance abuse by youths.
Claire Schroeder, program manager for Westbrook Communities That Care, helped organize that forum and has facilitated other discussions in the schools.
She said it was disappointing to hear about the latest party but the community can use it “as an opportunity to strengthen what we’re doing, so we are better prepared in the future.”
Schroeder said survey data of high school students in Maine shows that drinking is no more common in Westbrook than in other communities. She said that reducing drinking by teenagers will take time.
Ray Richardson, who is the father of a Westbrook High School student and hosts a radio talk show, said he sees the latest incident as an opportunity for the school’s leaders to prove themselves.
“The school’s either going to lead, they’re going to enforce their rules … or the leadership is going to fail us and we’re going to have to replace them,” said Richardson, who has been an outspoken critic of the way school officials handled the discipline in the fall.
‘I REALLY THINK IT STARTS AT HOME’
Abdalla Abdulaal, a 16-year-old student at Westbrook High, said he doesn’t smoke or drink but is certainly aware of the party culture at the school.
He said he believes that school officials and police are trying to address the problem. At this year’s winter dance, for instance, police checked for alcohol. But he suggested there is only so much the school can do.
“They are teenagers, so they like to do crazy things,” Abdulaal said.
Carmen Douglass, a Westbrook resident who was watching her grandchild play at a city park Thursday, said the school has to use policies and punishments to reaffirm the message that underage drinking is wrong. But she said parents bear much of the responsibility.
“I really think it starts at home,” said Douglass. “When you send kids out as teenagers, the basics and the foundation have to be laid out already (so) they know what is right and what is wrong.”
Stacyann Thomas Johnson said she already talks to her 10-year-old son about the dangers of smoking and drinking, and believes the entire community should be willing to step in when a young person misbehaves.
She said the schools must send a strong, consistent message, including suspending athletes who get caught drinking.
“You need to set some examples and show that this is wrong,” Johnson said.
Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: