It was a tense, oftentimes emotional meeting last night at Dixon High School's Theater. The students who were not allowed into Saturday's Junior Prom, and many of their parents, had an opportunity to vent their frustrations to the Dixon High administration and ask them questions.
We did a live blog of the event, but towards the end, we had some technical difficulties (the modem this editor was using fried) that resulted in us not being able to report what happened.
Principal John Barsotti told the students: "I am very sorry for all the students and the families who are involved in this. There’s no question."
A student in the audience asked for a public apology for which Barsotti replied:"This is what I am giving you. A public apology. I am very sorry for how I handled the situation, having students be upset. I wish I could have done things better. That was my fault. There's no question, I was reponsible."
Interim Superintendent also apologized to the students at the beginning of the meeting He told them that that the buck stops with him and told the students that things might have turned out quite differently if he were to have scrutinzed the dance contract and would have known the clauses it contained.
But at the same time, he also told them that he does not doubt that a student had alcohol on the bus that transported the students to the prom in Elks Tower, Downtown Sacramento.
He told the students however, that the staff would no longer investigate who allegedly brought the alcohol along in the bus, unless some definitive evidence were to show up that would give them a reason to re-open the investigation.
Dolan vowed to form a task force to investigate constructive ways to make things right. Students and their parents seemed open to it. But many in the audience said that Principal Barsotti was not answering their questions sufficiently about the details surrounding Promgate, his response to the situation and the school's lack or preparation to enforce the terms of the dance contract.
The contract states: "Students suspected of being under the influence will be subject to evaluation by DHS Administration and/or local law enforcement, including a breathalyzer exam. The students who are under the influence will have their parents contacted for pick-up."
The students were invited by Dixon Unified School District Board of Education President Irina Okremtchouk to attend tonight's meeting of the school board and speak during public comment.
Okremtchouk told the students to summarize their key concerns about the way that the prom was handled, and to provide solutions. The meeting is set for tonight at 7 p.m., in the chambers of the Dixon City Council, 600 East A Street.
Key points of last night's meeting:
- No student was found under the influence of alcohol from the 35 leadership students.
- Dixon High School does have a Breathalyzer but it does not work
- Principal Barsotti said the bottle of mineral water that contained the suspected alcohol had a minimal amount of the liquid, which he suspected to be vodka. The liquid was poured out.
- Barsotti said he sniffed the bottle to determine that it was alcohol inside.
- Barsotti said he did not sniff each of the students' breaths, administer Breathalyzers or see them exhibiting signs of being under the influence of alcohol.
- Barsotti said did not call in local law enforcement to administer Breathalyzers because there was not enough reasonable suspicion that the students were drunk or had consumed alcohol, only that someone brought it on the bus.
- Barsotti said he made a mistake and has issued a public apology to the students and their families for the way he handled the situation.
- Barsotti said he does not know what the consequences of his decisions should be, but said he would like to remain as DHS principal.
- Barsotti said that DHS Teacher Michael Vlach was outside with the students and that Assistant Principals Nick Girimonte and Stephanie Marquez assisted him in asking the students if they knew who brought the bottle of vitamin water that contained the suspected alcohol. Students however, say they were unsupervised and felt unsafe. They said they were denied use of the bathroom and had to go to nearby restaurants to use their bathroom.
- Students waited as much as four hours, outside of their prom, for their parents to pick them up.
- The bus company used by the students, API, had a contract that stipulated that if the minors were in possession of alcohol, they could leave the students without honoring the rest of the contract.
- The school has no control over the contract and is not responsible for the way that the students get there if they are not using the school's resources (i.e. a yellow bus) to get them to the prom, according to Brian Dolan.