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Decision to Ban 35 Dixon High Junior Class Leaders From Prom Sparks Outrage

A bus driver who transported 35 student leaders to the prom Saturday in Sacramento found a bottle containing alcohol on the bus, prompting the school's administration to exclude each of the students from the prom.

Months of planning and raising funds for the perfect prom were cast aside for 35 students who comprise the junior class' leadership at when someone allegedly left a bottle of vitamin water containing alcohol on the bus that took them to their junior prom. 

The students -- some who had participated Thursday in an warning them of about the dangers of drinking and driving -- chartered the bus to drive them safely from their Dixon homes to Elks Tower in Downtown Sacramento.

Donning their beautiful dresses and sharp-looking tuxedos the teenagers were looking forward to dancing the night away, taking photographs and making memories that would last them a lifetime.

Instead, the teenagers were left with bitterness about the way that the school's administration handled the situation after the bus driver who drove them to the prom found a bottle containing alcohol on the bus.

Breathalyze Us, Principal Barsotti

At the heart of backlash against the school’s administration lies a contract that each of the students and their parents signed to be able to attend the prom. 

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."

Several of the students interviewed for this story said that the school violated the contact by not providing any of the students a Breathalyzer test and failing to contact their parents.

"He never Breathalyzed any of us," said DHS junior Bridget Roberts, 16. "Nobody’s parents were contacted unless their kids contacted them personally. We stood outside of the dance on the street for four hours, not supervised."

Roberts said the bus driver left the prom once the alcohol was found on the bus, as stipulated in the bus company’s contract, leaving the kids without a way to get back home.

Meanwhile, the 35 students were made to stand outside the doors of the very prom that they had put together. They made phone calls, sent text messages and attempted to clear their names by arguing for a law enforcement presence to respond to the scene and Breathalyze the students as stipulated in the contract.

However, Roberts said that the administration refused to call in local law enforcement and lacked a Breathalyzer of its own to test the students.

"I got a ride home with one of my friend’s mom because they were at the Dwelley house, a couple of parents," Roberts said. "We all went back to Maddy’s. It was handled poorly."

Many of the student leaders share Roberts' sentiments.

"I'm on the leadership crew that planned this prom ... we have been planning this since freshmen year," said Junior Class Vice President Yasmin Quintana said. "I have been the one behind the scenes the entire time. I put my whole heart into the prom. It was just really frustrating for me because I don’t drink. I asked Mr. Barsotti more than three times that he Breathalyze me and he would not Breathalyze me."

Quintana said that students were pleading with Barsotti to have him call someone from the local police department or perhaps the California Highway Patrol, but Barsotti refused she said. 

"I demanded him to Breathalyze me," Quintana said. "I think it was handled very wrong. I think that what should have been done is if you were drinking, you were out. I did not spend all this money to spend it sitting outside. They broke the contract, not us." 

"They said they were looking for honesty," Junior Class President Cassandra Owens said. "In that case they weren’t being honest. When they said there was going to be a Breathalyzer there. First of all the attitude toward it. They all acted like we are dumb. They did not treat us with respect. They just automatically assumed it was certain people. It was all so complicated. If they just had a Breathalyzer there, that could have been 100 times better."

Quintana, Owens and Roberts said they didn't see anyone on the bus drinking alcohol, and said that someone perhaps left the bottle from a previous trip. They said that if some of the students were drinking, they should have not been allowed to go inside.

They said that a few of the kids on the bus told Barsotti and his staff that they were the ones who were drinking, however, the principal did not budge in his decision to keep all of the students outside of the prom. In addition, the students say that an ambulance was called in to treat another student who drank alcohol, but that was not on the bus chartered by the student leaders.

They said that the students who arrived with girl whom was treated by the ambulance were not asked to leave the prom.

"What was done was not right," Quintana said. "Keeping a few kids out that’s one thing, but keeping all 35 of us out is not right."

Quintana said that many of Principal Barsotti's decisions at Dixon High School have been unpopular among the students, but she is among the students who attempt to support the principal wholeheartedly. However, she said this particular incident has changed things.

"We all thought that he was going to meet us in the middle to come up with a compromise to make everybody happy but he didn’t," Quintana said. "I have never been so disappointed. I am ASB Vice President. That is a huge role around the school. I'm really known in the office. Whenever anything like this happens I always take the school’s side. I always do whatever I can to back up the school. But this one just threw me over the edge. I have never been embarrassed to attend Dixon High School."

Parents Scramble to Pick Up Students

Marcia Owens was at her Dixon home Saturday night when she received the call from her daughter, Cassandra. 

Her daughter, who is the Junior Class President, told her that she would not be allowed into the prom because a bottle of alcohol was found on the bus she was riding in.

Owens made the trip to Downtown Sacramento to pick up her daughter and ask some questions about what happened.

"The situation allegedly occurred on the bus, there were no witnesses to anything," Owens said.

Owens mentioned the Breathalyzer clause in the prom contract and that the administration is obligated to contact parents but said, "I can tell you that none of that happened." 

"Barsotti interviewed them, he left the kids out there with no remedy to the issue, he broke his own dance contract," Owens said. “I was so sickened by everything that transpired that night, nothing made sense."

Among the students who were not allowed to enter the junior prom was John Dolan, son of Interim Superintendent and former DHS Principal Brian Dolan.

"I don't think I have enough information from the administration right now to be able to make any kind of judgment on it, much of the information is coming from the students," Dolan said Sunday night in a telephone interview. "My own son was on that bus. I drove over to Sacramento to pick up my kid. We didn't even know how many kids brought the alcohol."

Dolan said that he does not believe his son violated the contract that prevents students from drinking alcohol at the prom.

When asked if it was fair for his son to be excluded from the prom, Dolan said: "The last thing that we want to do is deprive kids of what they look forward to. Until I talk to the administration ... as a parent I don’t know if it's right or wrong to keep my son out. I know that once that alcohol shows up it’s a different situation. I know that there are a lot of people upset. It was a frustrating and disappointing night for us too, as a family."

Dolan said there are many elements to this incident and he asks for parents and the students to have patience while he attempts to sort out what happened and why the decision was made.

"I don’t know that any of the kids or the parents have all the information that they need to make a judgment," he said. "If it was a total kid mess-up or a total admin mess-up. I know that they have more work to do tomorrow. I am sure that parents will want to talk to the administration. Let the information develop and give each other the chance to say their piece and get sorted through this carefully."

"They can’t fix this," Owens said. "You can’t fix something that is destroyed. They are going to have to take it upon themselves, a prom for those kids who chose to do the right thing."

The 35 Moblizes

Today on the campus of Dixon High School the 35 students and others who support them are planning to wear their prom attire to school and maybe even dance in protest of the decision.

Students will also be speaking to the school board at the next school board meeting, slated for May 3. Many of them have taken to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to vent about the decision and to organize.

Dixon Patch will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Editor's note: Calls to Principal Barsotti were not returned as of this posting. We will update the story as soon as we can.

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Jenn May 02, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Actually, if you were unaware that a crime was committed, you lack the mens rea to be responsible for the crime. In the case of the unsuspecting getaway driver, if the were clueless as to what their passenger had just done, there would be no criminal liability.
Jenn May 02, 2012 at 05:55 PM
DHS and DUSD have a habit of punishing all for the actions of 1. It is unfortunate, and it doesn't teach kids the lesson the school/district thinks it is teaching. When I was at DHS they had a breathalyzer at our prom, and they threatened to test all of us. It broke part way through the night, and there were still girls puking into potted plants. It was a joke then, and it was an empty threat at this prom. It appears to me that the principal didn't expect to actually have to follow through on his contract/threat, so he wasn't prepared. My son is still young, but it is my experience at DHS 15+ years ago, my sisters' experiences less than 10 years ago, and these types of incidents that are leading me to consider our Sacramento private school options. The idea that it would ever be appropriate to strand 35 kids in down town Sacramento - at night - with no supervision simply based on the word of a limo driver (where's the bottle now?) is shocking to me. If this is the kind of leadership DHS employs, there is no way I want my kid there.
Ian Arnold May 03, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Here's a simple question: Did any of the kids exhibit any signs of alcohol consumption? If no, there was no probable cause; if yes, those kids should have been tested and, had they been drinking, their parents should have been called.
falcon May 03, 2012 at 04:52 AM
The limo company should have called the parents or police according to their contract. If alcohol is found on their limo bus they have an obligation to inform the minors parents and make certain those children were not left. It seems that there should be some culpability on API Limo
ylqpr May 03, 2012 at 01:20 PM
@Ian - No, the kids did not show any signs of being under the influence. He was going based on what the driver said. At no point did the driver say he witnessed any of the 35 drinking from this bottle either. Just that it was on the bus and smelled like alcohol. @Falcon -You're right. The limo company should have acted differently if this was really alcohol. Instead, the company drove away leaving the kids and picked up a different party leaving the 35 without transportation home. Funny that the company was paid and tipped in advance and per their contract was supposed to stay there all night.

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