The latest alcohol-related incident at Lakeland High School in Jermyn is nothing to cheer about.
But, unlike the game-changing teenage beer party back in November of 2001, when Lakeland football players, cheerleaders, a color guard member and a musician in the band got nailed at an underage drinking party that resulted in a play-off loss for the “team,” this case is adults only.
“Cheer moms,” and other supporters of the high school cheerleading squad came up with a plan to raffle off $400 worth of beer as a way to raise funds for the children. A caller to the show yesterday said the original idea involved raffling off a pallet of beer – 60 cases – but their favorite, friendly neighborhood beer distributor said that would be illegal.
So they changed the raffle to a gift certificate that would allow the big winner to buy anything at the distributor - water, chips, pretzels, beef snacks or, of course, beer.
Looks like an end-around, to use underage football jargon. You call a beer distributor a beer distributor for a reason. A beer distributor is where you go to buy beer.
Supporters argue that the teenagers will not sell tickets and that tickets can only be purchased by those over 21 years of age.
Whatever happened to hoagie sales? Whatever happened to common sense. Whatever happened to innocence?
I truly hope that the Lakeland High School cheer-for-beer crowd comes to their senses.
In Jermyn and other places throughout hard coal country, beer is often a first choice problem-solver. In this case, supposedly well-meaning adults are reinforcing bad decision-making in their children, who, unfortunately are, indeed turning into “beerleaders,” as they defend the beer raffle and become increasingly disrespectful in the process.
Lakeland superintendent R. Scott Jeffrey told me off the air yesterday (he declined to speak with me on the air), that the beer raffle is “… a bad idea.”
Jeffrey, who’s new to the job and has been quoted in newspaper accounts as saying he wants only the best for the children, said the high school principal has also not signed off on the beer raffle.
But the cheerleader advisor apparently has done just that.
Jeffrey also said the Lakeland school board has no official oversight policy that gives them any control over outside fund-raising activities.
That must change.
When I broke the beer raffle news on the air Friday, I didn’t name the school because I had not yet confirmed the plan through official channels. After speaking with Jeffrey yesterday, though, I decided to identify the school district.
To do otherwise might tarnish other schools where cheerleading squads and other groups work very hard to conscientiously raise whatever money they can to support their respective public and private school activities. As news of the beer raffle controversy spread, some Lakeland parents and other misguided supporters went wild about anybody questioning the way they raise their children.
But, by mounting their dull defense, they, not I, created the fever pitch that cast their children as members of the “beerleading squad.” They, not I, created the idea that they are “basket of cheer moms.” They, not I, turned a booster club into a “boozeter club.”
A teenage girl who identified herself as the captain of the cheerleaders called yesterday to argue and defend the decision. Then she demanded to know just why I cared so much about what went on at her school anyway.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Seventeen,” she said.
That’s why, I said.
She and her teenage cheerleader friends are bouncing on the dangerous cusp of young adulthood, a dangerous place where bad choices lurk around many corners. For this and other reasons, the ramifications of the beer raffle must command the attention of all responsible adults and teens.
Alcohol use and abuse shapes too much of our lives. Responsible drinking for many adults is enjoyable and acceptable. But when then times get tough and all else fails, too many people let alcohol control them. Alcohol is their savior, their gateway to misery and even death.
To endorse alcohol as an acceptable way to raise funds for high school cheerleaders is wrong.