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Underage partiers face charges

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Homeowner Heather Der Vartanian said she wishes more of the teens attending the mid-winter school-break party would do the same.

“Not many, maybe three” of the teens contacted the family to apologize, she said. “Most of the kids just wanted their shoes and coats back. It was a little disheartening."

Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police officers were called to the River Street home shortly after 10:30 p.m. Feb. 4 on a possible break-in. Instead, they found a group of teenagers inside the family's home.

Police said about 30 people appeared to have been at the party, but there might have been more because some of them ran from the house when police arrived, Police Chief Roger DeYoung said. A large number of personal items were left behind.

Tickets for the charge of minor in possession of alcohol were written for at least four people, DeYoung said.

The teenage house-sitter was arrested and charged with hosting an underage party, the chief said. The boy is scheduled to be arraigned on that charge, and possibly a couple of other offenses, on March 6, said Sgt. Curt Theune of the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department.

“The house was trashed,” homeowner Doug Der Vartanian told the Tribune earlier. “You can imagine the amount of damage 35 teenagers can do with drugs and alcohol involved.”

Two stashes of drugs were found in the house after the party, Heather Der Vartanian said. A friend who was helping to clean up the mess found one stash; the other was discovered inside a toy box in the basement.

Heather said her daughter also found a lighter in her craft table.

“We told her, if she found something weird, don’t touch it — tell one of us,” Heather said. “She did.”

Theune said marijuana is the only narcotic that was found inside the home, either on the night of the party or afterward. He declined to release any more information until after the party host’s arraignment.

Some of the people who were at the party are Spring Lake High School students. The school's athletic director, Cavin Mohrhardt, said he received a copy of the police report with names of those who were at the party.

“Anybody who was in violation of the (school's) athletic policy was talked to,” he said.

One person was suspended for the rest of the athletic season, Mohrhardt said.

The only other Spring Lake student on the party list that was involved in athletics was not currently participating in a sport at the school. Mohrhardt said if that person wants to play a spring sport, he or she would have to sit out half of the season.

Mohrhardt said being at a party is not against the school's athletic policy, but being in possession of drugs or alcohol, or being tested positively for consumption of drugs or alcohol, is a violation.

Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist said the party was not on school time or property, so it is primarily a legal issue. The only time that the school becomes involved is when students are part of extracurricular activities, he said.

Still, the school takes the issue seriously, Gilchrist said, and the athletic policy will be reviewed at an upcoming athletic committee meeting,

“They are going to look at the policy again to make sure it is working,” the principal said.

In April, school officials will meet with a group of about 60 students to talk about policies and education, and what the school can do to be more responsive to students' needs.

A party reported to police this past weekend in Grand Haven Township appeared to be adults, said Lt. Steve Kempker of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

“There are very few underage drinking parties in (the Tri-Cities) area,” Kempker said. “It’s more common for us around (Grand Valley State University) where minors are.”

Still, underage drinking parties are held in the county throughout the year, Kempker said. The information is turned over to schools “if we feel it should be,” he added.

Residents planning to leave for a vacation are advised to have adults watch their home, Kempker said. He said a neighbor should be used as a backup because they are around more often.

The Der Vartanians said they have since met with 12 of the kids who attended the Feb. 4 party at their home.

“We hope that those kids who have not yet come to apologize would at least step forward and help the host repay us for the repairs,” they said in a statement to the Tribune. “For those that did come to apologize, we appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and your parents.”

The Der Vartanians also expressed thanks to their friends who helped clean their home and take care of their pets until their return.

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