Tuesday, March 18, 2008

High Schoolers at Frat Party Bad Combination

Investigation launched at Fulton, MO Fraternity
By Matt Grant

FULTON -- A Westminster College fraternity is accused of serving alcohol to underage high school students - one of whom, a 16-year old girl was later involved in a drunk driving accident.

The story has generated a lot of attention in the community and has brought the issue of underage drinking and driving back into the spotlight.

In an unscientific KRCG Online poll, 76 percent of viewers said underage drinking is a problem at their child's school.

On Friday, the streets were practically empty at Fraternity Row. But campus security was out in full force.

The fraternity house, Beta Theta Pi, next to Sigma Alpha Epsilon - the house where a 16-year-old Fulton High School student said she went to party - put up signs mocking the SAE house. They wrote "15 will get you 20" and "Silly SAE drinking's not for kids."

Security made them take down the signs.

Officials from Westminster College say they've suspended all social events for their six fraternities and two sororities. This, pending the outcome of their investigation.

"Everyone in the community of Fulton and all the Westminster College officials are on one page at working to see that these things do not occur," said Rob Crouse, a spokesperson for the college.

School officials say on Friday they met with the mayor, the chamber of commerce and the principal of Fulton High School. And they also reached out to the family of Stephanie Teter, the 16-year-old who told KRCG News she takes full responsibility for her DUI accident.

"I made a bad decision," said Teter, from her hospital bed. "Hopefully it'll help somebody else out."

The national headquarters for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, based near Chicago, said they're conducting their own investigation and that the fraternity must "cease and desist all chapter operations" pending the outcome.

"Sigma Alpha Epsilon has very strict risk management guidelines and policies and we expect our chapters to adhere to those," said Brandon Weghorst, a spokesperson for SAE. "Anytime that we have an alleged incident that takes place, we always look at those procedures and policies to see whether or not they were in place, and whether or not the chapter members were following them."

Weghorst said in the most serious case, the local chapter could lose its charter. The length of the Fulton chapter's suspension and the length of the SAE investigation are both indefinite.

from the first story
"There's a lot of kids that go to frat parties," said Stephanie Teter, 16, from her hospital bed.

"It's not that big of a deal really. We just hear [about] a party, go over there, hit it up for a little bit, have fun."

Stephanie, a junior softball player at Fulton High School, said she attended a frat party last weekend at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house located at 315 West 5th Street in Fulton. She says she went to the party with college friends and met up with her high school friends, who were already there.

But the fun ended when she left the party and wrecked her Ford Taurus around 4:30 a.m., less than a mile from her house.

"I got lucky but granted it was my fault," said Teter. "It shouldn't have happened. But the choices I made put me there."

Stephanie, who's now at University Hospital in Columbia, dislocated her hip and broke her femur. Doctors had to insert a metal rod, which runs from her hip to her knees.

Stephanie's parents brought the mangled car to Fulton High School, in full view of everyone, in hopes of deterring other students from making the same mistake.

"I think as long as it saves somebody's life or helps somebody out than that's all that matters to me," she said with tears in her eyes. "I made a bad decision and hopefully it'll help somebody else out."

Christina Case is Stephanie's mother and thinks the college hasn't paid enough attention to the situation.

"I know that college kids, [drinking] is just a part of growing up," said Case. "But whenever your high school children are allowed in these parties and there's nothing that's been done about it, and it's been an issue for a while, that's disturbing to me."

Maj. Roger Rice of the Fulton Police Dept. says their efforts have reduced the number of underage kids attending off campus parties.