Salamandra warns homecoming party planners

By Judd Liebman

A parent sent Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra a copy of a Facebook message using the phrases “B.Y.O.B.” and “don’t puke,” alerting him of the possibility of a Homecoming after party. A group of five seniors planned an event in the weeks before Homecoming but cancelled it the day before the party.

Salamandra was under the impression that there would be alcohol at the event, so he called the hosts’ parents to ensure they knew their children were planning a party with teen drinking, he said. These calls were made before Salamandra talked to the event planners themselves.

“I didn’t like the parent involvement,” said one of the planners who requested anonymity. “I thought that was very unprofessional. I think Salamandra could have contacted us first, and that could have cleared up a lot of things. Parents were thinking it was a lot worse than it actually was.”

After the students’ parents told them about the calls, the hosts met with Salamandra, who had mistakenly associated a separate party with their event. Salamandra warned them of the safety concerns of hosting such a large party.

“You don’t have control over the individuals at the party,” Salamandra said. “If they were your friends and they were doing something you don’t approve of, you can stop them. But if they’re people you don’t really know, then it’s different.”

Three planners said Salamandra never pressured them to shut down the party but was concerned for students’ overall safety.

“We feel responsible for students’ well-being even if they aren’t on campus,” Salamandra said.

Making a decision with limited information was difficult, Salamandra said, so he resorted to his experience with similar issues.

“Our students have been responsible with drinking and driving,” he said. “However, I can’t guarantee that’s how it’s always going to be. From what I know and what I have read, teenagers unfortunately end up making unwise choices sometimes. If I hadn’t contacted those people, then would it have been a big deal? Maybe not. Maybe it would have gone on, and we would not have even heard about it, [but] it had the potential to be problematic.”

“There was some thinking that maybe we cancelled the party,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said. “We can’t cancel a private party. Our role was simply to inform families that this was happening and we had concerns about it.”

Another event planner said administrators had an underlying message regarding disciplinary action in the context of the college process.

“The school would say things like, ‘it would be a shame for something bad to happen during the college process…,’” a planner said.

The event planners ended up cancelling the party because it was getting too large and their parents pressured them to do so.

“I’m glad we didn’t let our egos get involved and fight the school because that wouldn’t have ended up good for anyone,” a planner said.