The principals and administrators of City Honors School, Canisius High School, Nardin Academy and St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute have all sent letters to parents and alumni this week in response to their students’ participation in a wild party Dec. 27 that left a Parkside home robbed and trashed.
School leaders said they were “concerned” and “disturbed” by the incident, are cooperating with police and conducting their own investigations. Several of the schools also said they are “taking action to hold these students accountable.”
All four high-achieving high schools stated that the behavior exhibited by students who attended the unauthorized house party did not exemplify the values of their schools.
City Honors Principal William A. Kresse said 19 current students and seven recent graduates of City Honors have been identified as participants in the incident so far.
“Our faculty and I are as disturbed by this event as you are,” he stated in his 1½-page note to parents, alumni and other school supporters. “It is difficult to reconcile the young people described by our local media with the children we interact with every day.”
Last week, police reported that seven other students were from Nardin, six from Canisius, four from St. Joe’s and three from a Williamsville high school.
Canisius and Nardin sent messages with nearly identical wording to their school communities early this week. St. Joe’s also sent out a very similar statement, though some parents and alumni contacted by The Buffalo News said they had not yet received it.
“We are very concerned about this behavior by these young people,” their statements read. “Regardless of their youth, this is unacceptable.”
The house party incident occurred when homeowners Steven Binder and Kristen Segebarth took their daughter with them on a trip to Costa Rica last month and left their home in the care of a teenage cat sitter, a friend of their daughter.
Items were stolen, and extensive vandalism included holes in walls, broken furniture, used condoms and evidence of urine, feces and vomit. The incident was reported last week by The News after the homeowners said they were unable to settle the matter with the cat sitter’s parents.
Kresse said Wednesday that he sent a lengthy note to City Honors parents, alumni and other school supporters in an effort to be as open and direct about the incident as possible. While the school has identified students and is reviewing information provided by the police, he said, the public school is more limited than the private schools in regard to disciplinary action it can take against students involved.
“Right now, we’re doing everything the law allows us to do,” he said.
The statement from the private high schools indicates that any of their students involved will face consequences, but provided no further specifics. Neither the presidents nor the principals at Canisius, Nardin and St. Joe’s returned phone calls and emails from The News on Wednesday.
One notice from Canisius stated that aside from the brief five-paragraph statement, shared by the three schools, no further comment would be made.
Buffalo trial lawyer Terrence M. Connors said it’s possible some of the students could face criminal penalties.
“Criminal mischief is probably going to be the one most likely in the investigation,” he said. “If the police can identify the individuals who committed those acts, then they can pursue charges. They would most likely be looking at a criminal mischief charge for intentionally or recklessly damaging the property of another. The degree of the crime is dependent on the amount of damage.”
Kresse said he will soon be holding another regular class meeting with juniors and seniors and will discuss the incident with them. He said he intends to remind the students that they have been given the advantages of an advanced curriculum and highly qualified staff. “We expect better out of you” will be the main message, he said.
“I’m under no illusion that simple words from a school principal can eliminate all possibility of discipline incidents occurring,” he added. “ I will probably express to them less anger and more disappointment.”
Kresse said he’s seen many of his students do good community work and that when he’s confronted by the kind of behavior his students exhibited at the house party, “the two images don’t match up.”
In his letter, Kresse encourages parents to contact the Buffalo police if they believe their children played a role in the house party incident. He also provided information about how to gain school assistance if a parent feels their child may need alcohol, drug or other counseling.
Sister Noreen McCarrick, who formerly ran a child psychology clinic in Niagara Falls and is a licensed social worker and school counselor, said it appears likely alcohol and drugs played a role in the students’ house party behavior. “The first thing you want to find out is what substances were they abusing,” she said. “In general, it would have to be more than alcohol in order to generally disinhibit such a wide range of out-of-control behavior.”
News Staff Reporter Lou Michel contributed to this report. For complete versions of the statements the schools sent out, go to BuffaloNews.com/schoolzone email: firstname.lastname@example.org