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Seven charged with alcohol violations at Park Rapids high school campout

A spontaneous overnight campout before the last day of school turned raucous during the early morning hours of May 28 in Park Rapids. Seven students were cited for alcohol infractions.

They are Jeffrey Sharp, Jerry Anderson and Cameron Free of Park Rapids, Daniel Ricke of Menahga and Roth Mattson of Osage. The remaining two are under the age of 18 and considered minors. Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said he could not release those names.

Dozens of kids pitched tents on the lawn of Park Rapids Area High School Thursday evening, May 27. They told their parents they'd been given permission by school officials. School officials said, however, permission was never formally granted.

Student Mike Sandretzky said he realized just after 2:30 a.m. some classmates had taken his father's work ladder out of the van he brought to the campout. They wouldn't give it back.

"I called my mom and she was going to come down there and I said, 'They won't give it to you either.'"

Lisa Sandretzky called the police at 2:45 a.m. on May 28.

"The call said there was a party going on at the school and they were possibly consuming alcohol," Eilers said.

Two city officers and a county deputy arrived on scene. "They were crawling on the roof," Eilers said, when officers arrived.

"Somebody could have gotten seriously hurt," the chief said.

When beer bottles were found in one tent, officers performed an impromptu lineup after getting the students off the roof. One student had even pitched his tent on the roof, Eilers said.

Each officer administered a portable breath test. Each student that registered an alcohol level was given a citation for being a minor consuming alcohol, Eilers said.

The dignity of a cap and gown ceremony was preceded three days earlier by the indignity of cops rousting kids out of their tents at 3 a.m., administering Breathalyzer tests to all. Many students were awakened from a sound sleep.

The repercussions

Eilers is used to senior class shenanigans during the last days of school. It's been happening since time immemorial and not just in Park Rapids.

When peer pressure collides with youthful indiscretion, the results aren't usually optimal, he said.

"I don't really care who gave who permission," he said. The cops responded to a citizen complaint, which is their sworn duty.

"Overall it was not a good thing to do," he said of the chaperone-free frolic.

Eilers said it would have been impossible to control a crowd that size, which at one point may have numbered up to 100 kids.

He said officers were responding to other calls that night, but did patrol by the school before they were called in. There were no problems until the wee hours of the morning, the chief said.

"Some parents are upset they weren't notified their kids were drinking," he said, admitting he's gotten calls about the way the police handled the evening.

"Some got kicked off a (sports) team or had to sit out a game. That's what happens when they drink," he said.

At age 18, students are considered adults. Police are not legally responsible for informing the parents, Eilers said.

But the complaints keep coming. Why didn't the cops send everyone home or shut the party down?

Eilers said because there were questions as to whether the students were given permission to be there, officers didn't want to shut down the kids' "lasting memories."

Some students allegedly took off in the initial confusion and were not booked or breath tested, other students said. That has led parents to accuse the police of favoritism in writing up the infractions.

"We lined them all up," Eilers said. "Everybody that registered on the PBT (portable breath test) was given a ticket."

Mike Sandretzky has been harassed and bullied for asking his mom to call the police.

"I'm on probation," he said. "I can't be around alcohol. I didn't want to get arrested."

He asked his mom to call for help when it became clear he couldn't handle the situation himself.

"They've posted things on my Facebook page and I got a text message that said I'd better watch my back," Sandretzky said. Sandretzky reported the threats to police Monday. One Web comment on an out of town media publication suggested Lisa Sandretzky "should be shot as well."

"If he's being threatened we'll take a look at it," Eilers said.

"We certainly don't approve of what happened but it was a mistake made by a few kids," said Park Rapids Supt. Glenn Chiodo in an e-mail to Enterprise publisher Rory Palm. Chiodo refused further comment.

Good kids

As far as senior classes go, Eilers said the Class of 2010 has been one of the better ones.

"We have a liaison officer in the schools and she's said they're pretty good kids," Eilers said.

But peer pressure and the lack of chaperones can make the difference in whether a few kids screw up the experience for all, Eilers said.

The chief worries about what could have been.

"When the officers got there, there were several kids peeking down over the roof," he said.

A majority of the students hadn't been drinking, Eilers points out. He hopes the Class of 2011 will learn from its predecessors.