Secluded school grounds attract underage drinkers the way salmon offal gathers grizzlies. At Copper Mountain School, teens congregate out of sight behind the school or on the lower ball field where trees shield them from passers-by. They leave the grass littered with plastic cups and beer cans.
Since only one house stands between mine and Copper Mountain School with its recessed nook in the center rear of the building, at night when traffic ceases and sound carries clearly, I am often kept awake until 2 a.m. particularly on long holiday weekends by boisterous hoots of laughter or hollering as kids gather to illegally imbibe out of sight of folks living or driving on Kirkaldy Street.
Even more sleep disturbing are the ATVs and dirt bikes that rip out strips of grass or plow ruts in the ball fields as they power up to leave.
Friday night May 20 fit the pattern until nearly 2 a.m. That’s when whoops of drunken activity crescendoed, suddenly punctuated by a panicked female screaming, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”
No more laughter. No more chatter. The party had lost its effervescence or abruptly ended. Yet I didn’t hear any banging car doors or motors driving away. Next day I found fresh bicycle tracks where the trail was clear of pine needles.
Daily I take my dogs for a 45 minute walk ending around the perimeter of the school grounds, past the building’s back wall, and out through the playground. I can’t help but notice every new beer can, dirt bike rut, or broken barrier chain.
On my walk Saturday afternoon, May 21, I found a bonfire had been set close to the back of the school burning a deep black hole in the lush green grass. From my house I would not have been able to see smoke or a fire. I learned later from RCMP that the fire department had attended and extinguished the bonfire, summoned perhaps by an alert, concerned neighbour.
Some six weeks earlier a workman had set up a slanting tarp screwed to the top of the school’s back wall and supported by 14 long 2x4s. He never removed the tarp or the 2x4s. The teens had used the 2x4s for firewood.
Along with a large area of trampled grass west of the fire pit, 28 beer cans and a Canadian Classic cigarette package lay scattered about and farther along on the pavement a smashed liquor bottle, and a new Dakine grey-and-black backpack with no I.D.
Beside the trail leading south through the bush I came upon a red Old Milwaukee Classic 15-can beer carton, and a pair of navy sweat pants. They reminded me of Monika Lewinsky’s blue dress. Farther along the trail was dotted by more beer cans like Gretel’s bread crumbs. One can had snagged in alder branches.
On my next walk two days after the party, the backpack and sweatpants had been removed along with the beer cans that had festooned the bushes.
As weather warms up and kids will soon be out of school for the summer, these midnight drinking parties will happen more often.
“We really want to encourage parents to know where their kids are and who they are with,” says Const. Tracy Wobeck. “It’s equally important that teens recognize the dangers out there, and make good decisions.”
“Parental awareness is key to their safety. Many party invitations or call-outs come across electronic media and social networking sites and applications these days. Monitoring your kids’ telephone and computer activity isn’t about being nosy or intrusive, it’s about applying adult discretion where youthful inexperience can leave your young ones vulnerable.”
RCMP advise phoning 911 at the first sign of a drinking party or other infractions on school grounds.