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SOUTH BEACH: MISSION VIEJO

Students Fighting Alcohol Penalty

June 03, 1998|LIZ SEYMOUR

They've been grounded at home, suspended at school and now two Capistrano Valley High School girls are waiting to learn if they will be expelled for drinking rum on a band and drill team trip to Europe.

Legal arguments heard Tuesday by Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert E. Thomas focused on whether the spring-break trip was sponsored by the school district.

The two girls, Stacy Ogg, 18, and Veronica Behunin, 17, face a June 18 expulsion hearing for violating the district's zero-tolerance policy against drug and alcohol use.

While in Austria, the girls bought a fifth of Bacardi rum and drank enough of it in their Salzburg hotel room to get sick.

As punishment, they were segregated from the other student travelers and then suspended from school for three weeks.

Their lawyer, David Shores of Irvine, was granted a court order allowing them to return to classes.

In court Tuesday, Shores said the trip, which was not financed by the district, was an extracurricular activity outside the campus--and the district's jurisdiction.

Expulsion is too severe a punishment for the girls, he said.

But Rob Bower, a lawyer for the Capistrano Unified School District, said in court that the trip was clearly a school-sponsored event.

The school board approved the trip, and the girls and their parents also signed consent forms that said they would abide by school rules and regulations--including the zero-tolerance policy--while they were traveling through Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

In an interview outside of court, the girls admitted they erred.

"We were being pretty stupid to not think about the consequences at all," said Ogg, whose mother barred her from the prom and revoked her driving privileges because of the drinking incident.

Behunin's mother said the girls should be punished by district officials, but the discipline shouldn't disrupt their schoolwork.

"It's counterproductive to their education," Annette Behunin said.

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