Police: Issaquah High School students convinced party bus driver to buy alcohol
October 27, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
UPDATED — 10:55 a.m. Oct. 27, 2011
The city prosecutor plans to charge the driver of a party bus headed to Issaquah High School’s homecoming dance for buying beer and liquor for teenagers aboard the bus.
The party bus driver, a 49-year-old Auburn woman, faces charges in Issaquah Municipal Court of furnishing liquor to minors and reckless endangerment — both gross misdemeanors punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.
Issaquah High School administrators suspended nine students for alcohol infractions in connection to the party bus incident. Police and school administrators started investigating the incident after intoxicated students arrived at the Oct. 22 homecoming dance.
Students aboard the bus — rented from a Seattle limousine service — convinced the driver to purchase alcohol for them and collected money for the purchases.
The driver then headed to the state-run liquor store in Issaquah, along Northwest Gilman Boulevard, and purchased beer and liquor for the underage riders just before 6 p.m. Oct. 22.
Police said about 20 students rode the bus to homecoming at the school’s downtown Issaquah campus. The driver did not consume alcohol, Issaquah Police Patrol Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum said Thursday.
Later, at the dance, officers and school administrators encountered intoxicated students from the party bus.
Officials suspended four students at the dance and five more students at school in the days after the celebration, Issaquah School District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said Wednesday.
Under district rules for student conduct, first-time offenders face emergency expulsion followed by a suspension of up to 90 days for alcohol infractions. Students facing emergency expulsion can agree to complete a disciplinary program and earn back credit for all but 10 of the suspension days. The punishment for repeat offenders is expulsion from the district.
Behrbaum said at least some of the students face criminal charges as minors in possession for bringing alcohol onto school grounds. Police must catch underage drinkers in the act in order to arrest someone for being a minor in possession.
(Issaquah police officers usually assist school administrators and chaperones at homecoming and other night-time school functions, such as dances and football games.)
The investigation deepened in the days after the event, after police received information about students aboard the party bus. Then, as students returned to classes Monday, Issaquah police investigators told school administrators the underage-drinking incident encompassed more students than the group disciplined at the dance.
Police interviewed more students and, as more information about the incident surfaced, school administrators ordered emergency expulsions for additional students connected to the incident.
Behrbaum said alcohol and drug infractions occur often among Issaquah teenagers, although the number of students involved in the homecoming incident set it apart.
“We do run across juveniles who have been drinking or using drugs, so it’s not abnormal for us to run across this at one of these events,” he said.
Principal Paula Phelps said the incident offered a chance for parents to educate teenagers about consequences related to alcohol and drug abuse.
“Overall, the homecoming celebration and dance were exceptionally positive, and we do not expect this incident to involve more than an isolated group of students; however, we take this very seriously and will continue to work with parents and community members to remind students of the dangers of drugs/alcohol,” she said in a message emailed to parents and students Tuesday afternoon.