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PRINCIPAL ADMITS STUDENT USE OF DRUGS AT CAMP-OUT

A number of students at City Honors used alcohol and illegal drugs at a recent school camp-out at Allegany State Park.

School Principal Paul Lafonara, in a letter to parents, said "a large number of high school students admitted to some level of alcohol and/or drug use."

Lafonara in an interview Friday said the school staff has interviewed about half the students involved, and while they constitute a "significant number," they do not add up to the 90 students rumored to have been involved.

About 200 students participated in the three-day camp-out, which is an annual activity at the school.

The students apparently snuck away two and three at a time to use alcohol or drugs on Oct. 8, the first day of the trip. Chaperones noticed the smell of marijuana in the woods near the campsite, but a search failed to turn up any students or drugs.

School staff then called the students together in the early hours of the morning to discuss the situation, but no one admitted any improper activity.

That changed, sources said, when student leaders asked the adults to leave the lodge at about 2 a.m. so the students could talk among themselves. Challenged by Student Council President Gerald Williams to be truthful, dozens of students stepped forward and admitted drinking alcohol or smoking pot.

School officials decided to continue the camp-out and used some of the time to talk about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. They followed up this week by holding conferences with the students involved in the illicit activity and their parents. The camping troubles also were discussed Thursday at the monthly meeting of the school's parents organization.

Lafonara, in his letter to parents, said the students would not be suspended. He cited a district policy that allows students to avoid suspension when they voluntarily admit to wrongdoing. The principal added, however, that actions will be taken against individuals and the group after school officials have concluded their review Tuesday or Wednesday.

Lafonara said this is the first trouble of this nature during his three years as principal of the school.

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