About 200 Westminster High School students briefly refused to go to class yesterday, protesting a decision in which about 40 students were deemed ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities for 45 school days, officials said.
The protesters, who balked at going to class after leaving their home rooms about 8 a.m., were peaceful and went to class within about five minutes, said Principal Sherri-Le Bream.
The disciplinary action stemmed from a party held on Feb. 6 at a student's home in Westminster, according to authorities, who said alcohol was consumed at the party.
Bream said she did not learn about the party until Feb. 10.
The next day, after a school investigation, students who had attended the party were declared ineligible in compliance with a policy of Carroll County schools to deal with alcohol- or drug-related incidents that occur off school property.
She described her handling of the brief protest.
"I went to the main lobby and asked the students to provide three representatives," Bream said. "Three students came forward, and the rest of the students went to class."
Bream listened to the student representatives' concerns and met with the faculty after school yesterday to inform them of what had happened.
She said a portion of today's first class period will be set aside to give all students the opportunity to express their concerns.
The students seemed most concerned that they can be disciplined for events that occur away from school property and after school hours, Bream said.
The student representatives were reminded that the action taken last week was a county school policy, not just hers, Bream said.
She said she encouraged them to take their concerns to the student senate.
"I listened and let them know that a vehicle to address their concerns is already in place, that the student senate could take the matter to the school board and the superintendent, if they wanted," Bream said.
While the eligibility policy affects all extra-curricular activities, including drama, band and student government, the impact is being felt most in interscholastic sports, where four boys and two girls reportedly were dropped from the school's varsity basketball teams for the remainder of the season.
Privacy laws prevent school officials from naming any of the disciplined students, nearly all of whom are believed to be juveniles.
Bream said those disciplined were in grades nine through 12.
"I think the school has too much power because they are involved in our lives in and out of schools," said senior Mike Preston, 17. "When we're in school they should be able to punish us as they see fit, but out of school, we're not under their supervision."
Preston said he would have participated in yesterday's demonstration if he had not been home sick.
Junior John Zentz said he could not participate on the junior varsity track team last year because he was at a party where students were drinking alcohol.
"We admitted we knew it was there but hadn't consumed any of it," said Zentz, 17. "It destroyed me with track and field. I was in the running for a varsity spot sophomore year and I didn't get to do it."
Zentz also said that a friend of his in the school band who was found to be in violation of the eligibility policy last year was not permitted to go on a planned band trip to Florida and lost his deposit money.
Beyond losing the remainder of the sports season, or the potential of missing all or part of a spring sport, the impact of last week's eligibility ruling affects senior student athletes who hope to turn slam dunks or goals and runs into scholarships for college.
It was unclear yesterday whether student athletes in spring sports could report late for the season.
Jim Peters, boys' varsity lacrosse coach at Westminster High, said spring sports coaches plan to meet Tuesday night to decide if athletes who are currently ineligible will be allowed to compete during the spring season.
Practice for the spring sports season begins March 1 and season-opening games are scheduled for March 22.
Students affected by the recent loss of eligibility would not be permitted to begin practicing until about March 25, or three days after the season opens.
Sun staff writer John Stewart contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 2/18/99