CVU athletes suspended after police bust drinking party
By Tom Gresham
Nine Champlain Valley Union High School athletes were suspended from competition after police broke up an underage drinking party in Shelburne earlier this month.
Shelburne Police Sgt. Allen Fortin said 21 teenagers were cited for alcohol violations stemming from the Jan. 9 party. Three teenagers with previous alcohol offenses were cited to appear in Vermont District Court, and 17 other teens were given tickets for a first offense, according to Fortin. He said one 15-year-old will face proceedings in Juvenile Court.
Fortin said Wednesday he could not release the names of any of the youths charged without clearance from Shelburne Police Chief Jim Warden, who was out of town.
It is unclear how many of the 21 teens cited for alcohol offenses are CVU students, or whether any of them are Williston residents. Williston students comprise roughly 40 percent of CVU’s enrollment.
CVU Principal Val Gardner said the nine student-athletes suspended included seven boys hockey players, a girls basketball player and a girls’ hockey player.
Four CVU boys hockey players and one girls hockey player were given three-game suspensions for drinking, while three members of the boys hockey team and one girls basketball player received one-game suspensions for being present when alcohol was served to minors.
The suspensions hit a CVU boys hockey team in the midst of a stellar season. The Crusaders opened the winter with 10 consecutive victories and were 10-1 at the time of the suspensions.
During the suspensions, CVU defeated Missisquoi Valley, 4-3, on Jan. 13 with seven players missing and then fell to BFA-St. Albans, 5-1, on Jan. 15 with four players still out.
CVU coach Bill Bodette said the four players would finish their suspensions by sitting out the Crusaders’ contest at South Burlington (8-2-2) on Saturday. CVU defeated the Rebels, 4-2, on Dec. 8.
Bodette said the suspensions should be only a temporary distraction for his squad, which reached the Division I state finals a year ago and is one of the favorites to win the title this winter.
“It’s a bump in the road as far as the team is concerned, but it’s not a pothole,” Bodette said. “It’s something we can get over.”
Bodette said he told his team that it possessed the talent to compete against anybody in the state with or without the suspended players.
“We’re focusing on keeping the team morale up and working hard,” Bodette said. “We’ve still got an excellent team. We’re going to get everybody back soon and get going again.”
CVU suffered another blow recently, losing standout goalie Trevor McGovern to injury in the BFA-St. Albans game. Dylan Thibault, a senior, has taken over for the Crusaders.
Bodette declined to comment on whether the suspended players would be disciplined any further; for instance, he did not say whether any players would see reduced playing time when they first returned to the lineup for next Wednesday’s home game against Middlebury.
Bodette deflected questions on the players’ identities to school administrators. Gardner said the school would not release the names of any of the student-athletes suspended, citing the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Fortin said officers did not contact the school about the party and the students involved, but school officials did contact police for information.
Gardner was uncertain how the school learned of the party and subsequent charges, but wrote in an e-mail, “I know one of the students from the group notified his/her coach of the situation.”
Gardner said school administrators handed out the suspensions based on the school policy established by the CVU School Board. Under the policy, first-time offenders are suspended from extracurricular activities. Students are dismissed from extracurricular activities after a second offense.
The school does not discipline students for incidents that occur outside of school or school activities except to address the students’ standing in their extracurricular activities.
Fortin said Shelburne police were enforcing the town’s winter parking ban in the early morning hours of Jan. 9 when it encountered “a bunch of cars on the street” on Littlefield Drive. Officers visited a nearby house where a party appeared to be in progress to ask that the vehicles be moved. Fortin said officers discerned that those at the party were juveniles and that alcohol was present.
Fortin said officers were denied entry to the house, and partygoers covered the windows to impede their observations. While police woke up a judge to obtain a search warrant, officers were posted outside the house. Officers entered the house before 6 a.m. and gave partygoers breath tests, Fortin said.
Fortin said a few passed the test and were released. The others were cited. He estimated about three dozen people were inside the residence. Fortin said no parents were home at the time of the party.