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Alcohol worries prompt new stadium policy at Franklin Regional

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 5:06 p.m.
Suzette Plonsky | For The Murrysville Star

The Frankin Regional 'Pit', student cheering section, at last week's homecoming game when the Panthers took on Knoch High School Oct. 4. Officials began cracking down on student behavior at football games, including underage drinking.
Suezette Plonsky
Suzette Plonsky | For The Murrysville Star The Frankin Regional 'Pit', student cheering section, at last week's homecoming game when the Panthers took on Knoch High School Oct. 4. Officials began cracking down on student behavior at football games, including underage drinking.

A series of new practices to curb underage drinking at Franklin Regional home football games worked well Friday night, district officials said.

Last week, the district implemented stricter regulations at home football games, including prohibiting teens who plan to sit in the student “pit” section at Panther stadium from bringing bags or outside containers into football games.

“We want our kids to make healthy, safe and legal decisions,” Piraino said. “We care about our kids' health, safety and welfare.”

Any bag brought into the stadium can be checked by security, Piraino said, and Murrysville police officers were working at the gates to check students in individually.

The new practices went well on Friday, Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Rejac said Monday.

“It went extremely smoothly, and we had a nice showing of students and staff,” Reljac said. “There were no issues, and we had good feedback.”

The changes were spurred by student behavior at the Sept. 27 football game, Piraino said. During the 35-0 victory over Belle Vernon, a 17-year-old boy was charged with underage drinking. That was the first underage drinking arrest this school year, and the second in 2013, Murrysville police Chief Tom Seefeld said. In 2012, the department handled five incidents, he said.

“We don't experience a lot of (underage drinking reports), but that doesn't reflect everything that's going on,” Seefeld said. “We are concerned about it.”

The procedures will be in place for future football games, Piraino said.

“If we suspect anything is going on, police will be there to test and Breathalyze students.”

Principal Ron Suvak addressed the issue in an open response to an email he received from an anonymous senior in the high school PTO newsletter. The teen wrote about worries that students planned to drink before the homecoming game and dance and urged administrators to take action.

Suvak wrote that he agrees that “poor, illegal and unsafe” decisions have no place at the high school.

“Clearly, enough of our students are not (making safe decisions) — causing you to feel the need to send the email,” Suvak wrote. “You have my word that we will heed your advice; that we will not put our ‘head in the sand'; and that we take our obligation to help students make good, safe and legal decisions very seriously.”

Officer William “Buzz” Yakshe, the district's school resource officer, talks with students from a young age about driving under the influence and underage drinking, Seefeld said.

One major worry that police have with underage drinking is when teens binge drink, Seefeld said. Drinking alcohol quickly can cause alcohol poisoning, he said.

Teens experience a lot of peer pressure to drink, he said. But parents should start the conversation about the consequences of drinking at home and be aware if a teen has a drastic change in behavior.

“Parenting can be tough at times,” Seefeld said. “Communication is huge. It all begins at home with an open dialogue on the consequences of alcohol.”

Underage drinking isn't a problem unique to Franklin Regional, Piraino said.

“There are very few, if any, schools in this country not concerned with this issue,” Piraino said.

“This is all about what's best for our kids and safe for our kids.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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