Pubdate: Thu, 16 Mar 2006
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2006 The Boston Herald, Inc
Author: Laura Crimaldi and Kristin Erekson
Bookmark: (Youth)


The White House drug czar yesterday sounded the alarm on high school 
kids drinking and drugging during spring break but backed away from 
assertions that 1 in 7 high schoolers under age 18 are partying 
unsupervised in hotspots like Cancun and Miami Beach.

"It was in fact a very real human error," Rosanna Maietta, 
spokeswoman for theBush administration's Office of National Drug 
Control Policy, said of the agency's faulty math, which suggested 
that 15 percent of all high schoolers under age 18 were unleashed to 
go wild during the annual vacation.

"But the fact is there are more and more people going on these 
trips," she said, and parents need to pay attention to that trend.

Locally, travel agents, high school students and school officials 
said they have noted very few instances in which students under age 
17 have been off partying like college kids during the spring hiatus.

But in Newton, the high schools have warned about a weekend charter 
trip to Montreal that they claim is an unsupervised opportunity for 
18-year-olds to drink and go to strip clubs because Canadian law allows it.

That trip, by Dedham-based Colpitts World Travel, has drawn the ire 
of adjustment counselors, principals and the Parent Teacher Student 
Organization in Newton.

"They let these kids run wild," said Rich Catrambone, an adjustment 
counselor at Newton South High School.

Despite warnings from principals, about 25 Newton high school 
students have signed up for this year's trip.

"We have always escorted our programs. We've always had security 
staff on our programs," said John Hayes, the head of the student 
division at Colpitts.

Other school departments contacted yesterday said they were not aware 
of a rash of unsupervised trips to spring break party locations.

"Of those that are going to party destination spring break trips 15 
to 20 percent are high school students. We don't know how many are 18 
or how many under 18. We don't have any information to determine if 
they are chaperoned or unchaperoned," said Michael Palmer, executive 
director of the Student Youth Travel Association.

Late yesterday, after several inquiries from the Herald, the Drug 
Control Office, through it's public relation arm, Fleishman-Hillard, 
admitted it lacked the statistics to back up its claim.

"We are putting out a correction," said Maietta.

The same office became the subject of criticism in 2002 when it 
launched its "drug money funds terrorism" ad campaign.

Some of the ads featured clean-cut teenagers staring into the camera 
as they soberly recited the words, "I helped blow up a building."

Critics called the campaign an attempt to exploit the tragedy of the 
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to bolster the war on drugs. The Drug 
Policy Alliance, which backs the deciminalization of pot and opposes 
the war on drugs, said federal authorities had yet to produce 
conclusive proof of a single case in which U.S. drug proceeds went to 
Middle Eastern terrorists.
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