Students, parents still wary after Wootton crash


Photo By Rebecca Jackson

CHS has been taking measures to warn students against drunk driving.

By Rebecca Jackson, Circulation Manager

At the beginning of summer break, four students from Wootton High School were involved in a tragic drinking and driving accident. The news of the car crash, the two deaths, serious injuries and the resulting legal battle with the parents responsible rippled through MCPS. With the beginning of parties this school year, the four boys and the shocking tragedy are on the minds of the community, affecting the willingness of parents to host parties and the fear of students to attend them.

Some CHS students had a difficult time finding an after-party for Homecoming this year after the car crash

According to Principal Joan Benz, administration did everything they could to prevent underage drinking at Homecoming, such as excess security, use of breathalyzers and undercover guards. The police are aware of when each high school hosts its Homecoming dance, so they check drivers on the road.

“Students should support each other and ensure that peers are not drinking and driving,” Benz said. “If you see someone look intoxicated, you should go take care of them and make sure they do not get in the driver’s seat.”

Benz is looking into having “Every 15 Minutes” come to CHS again, and technology teacher Rebecca Smith is looking into having a similar program come in the spring.

“Every 15 minutes” is a program that illustrates real-life examples of what happens when one drinks and drives. Its goal is to dramatically show students the danger of being inebriated behind the wheel, in hopes that they are scared away from alcohol in general.

This month, the Montgomery County Police Department came to CHS health classes to talk about driving drunk. It provided an activity where the student tried to drive a lawn mower through cones while wearing “Under the Influence” goggles.

“The drivers had disoriented vision and completely ran the cones over,” sophomore Areya Campbell-Rosen said. “After this, I hope that people have enough sense not to get into a car if they’ve been drinking.”

Students who drink are afraid of getting caught on top of the fear that they could lose someone from what most consider to be a common social activity.

“It’s scary to think that one of my friends could die because of a drunk driver,” Campbell-Rosen said.
Another program that deals with underage drinking is the Above the Influence Club at CHS. Its overall purpose is to tell people to fight peer pressure and to be safe and responsible, with the idea that everyone can have a good time without the use of alcohol.

The club completed the Red Ribbon Pledge, where students signed their names on ribbons stating that they would not drink and drive and would not enter an unsafe vehicle. The chain of ribbons was hung up at the Homecoming dance to remind students of their commitment.

According to Above the Influence Club President and senior Adam Newburger, students should be able take every opportunity to enjoy themselves, but they can do this without the use of alcohol or drugs.
Attending a party with alcohol or drugs can result in a student receiving a citation from a police officer or being kicked off of an athletic team. Also, peer pressure plays a role when it comes to drinking.

“If high schoolers drink, it’s really more about keeping up with social interests and trying to reach a short euphoria where you can escape logical thinking,” said senior Dorothy Hu. “We tend to forget the consequences because we think that that can’t possibly happen to us.”

A lot of teenagers get caught up in the hype of under-age drinking, and without a situation like the Wootton car crash occurring, they forget to think logically.

According to junior Lindsey Levy, she has witnessed a lot of underage drinking at CHS and in MCPS, but said for the most part, people are responsible.

Many teenagers are being more cautious about where they are going and how they are getting there. If someone has been drinking, they can either call Ubers or have designated drivers bring them home.

Most parents are aware of drinking at high school parties, and if their child is the host, many are held responsible for any actions related to the alcohol at the party.

If a parent is unaware of alcohol at their party, they face serious consequences and are accountable for any drunk driving, alcohol related injuries and fines. The parent that was present at the party that the Wootton boys attended was aware of the under-age drinking and did not take any actions. He is now being sued and serves as a caution for other parents.

Besides the legal consequences, the parents have to deal with emotional consequences; realizing that they played a part in the end of a child’s life.

It’s impossible to completely extinguish under-age drinking and drinking and driving from CHS, but students and parents experiencing the loss of a member of the community reminds everyone how delicate and real this matter is.