As their parents slept or were oblivious to what was happening at their homes, a sizable group of Naperville high school seniors threw a round-robin of parties last week just hours before their first day of classes, police officials confirm.
When the teenagers got to school, administrators say they determined many of them were drunk.
"The kids, at least 17 of them, went from one house to another the night before school started. Many of them stayed out all night," Naperville Police Chief David Dial told me on Sunday. "We know that they were at three different houses, but we have heard that they may have went to as many as five."
For most of Naperville's 18,000 public school students, it was the first school night of the 2011-2012 academic year.
For at least this group from Naperville North High School, it was the last night of summer.
For some parents, as part of a widening investigation, it could mean charges if police determine they were aware of the overnight parties at their homes, and not sleeping or as oblivious as they say, according to Chief Dial.
"One parent told us that she checked the kids when they came into her house and that she was unaware that they were drinking in the back yard," Dial said. "Another parent stated that she was in bed when her son brought some friends over and that she too was unaware of what they were doing."
The drinking parties that led to this first-day fiasco occurred between midnight and 5 a.m., according to what students have told school administrators. After downing the last shot, they headed to class for their big senior year.
You can be sure that this breakfast club didn't just come together by chance at midnight last Wednesday, a few hours before the first school bell. As with most teenage drinking festivities, it was well-conceived in what amounts to a pyramid protection scheme that goes like this:
The kids with the most lenient, pushover parents are identified as likely party venues.
Johnny tells his parents that he is sleeping over at Billy's house. Billy tells his parents he is sleeping at Jonah's house and so on. The girls pull the same stunt. Then, after buying some liquor using easily-obtainable, $100 fake Illinois driver's licenses they have purchased on the Internet, they all show up at party house number one where the endless summer continues.
Parents are lied to and deceived. They don't ask questions or make any phone calls to see if there really is a sleepover. They don't bother checking with other parents to determine whether all of them are being hoodwinked. They just turn over and go to sleep. After all, in a year the little darlings will be away at college making their own decisions anyway.
"I cannot explain why the parents or guardians of any of these youths would let them be out all night on the night before school was scheduled to begin," Naperville's police chief wonders. "We have not been able to confirm yet that any of the parents knew that the kids were drinking. If we do, they will be held accountable. Our investigation into this will continue."
So far, 15 of the students have been suspended from Naperville North after admitting that they went on an overnight binge, according to top officials of Naperville Unit District 203. They never even made it to lunch on that first day.
Some of the suspended students may face additional sanctions such as athletic suspensions. Additional suspensions are possible -- even for students who did not drink -- because they participated in the party events.
For school administrators, this wasn't a tough caper to crack.
"A staff member who is very familiar with the students observed some behavior that was out of character" said Susan Rice, communications director for the Naperville school district.
School administrators began asking questions that led to information about several early morning parties where alcohol was consumed. Some determinations of alcohol consumption were made by observation and confirmed by student self-disclosure, and others through student self-disclosure alone.
The school nurse did assessments on some individuals. Breath tests were administered by the Student Resource Officer to three students to determine if there were health and safety concerns the staff needed to respond to, Rice told me.
Some news reports seemed to link the wet breakfast club to an annual back-to-school tailgate celebration in the Naperville North parking lot before the first bell that morning. School officials deny there was drinking there and the police account certainly backs that up.
"None of the students interviewed indicated that any alcohol was present or consumed on campus by students" said Rice. "Many school staff were present at the celebration in the parking lot before school and none observed any possession of alcohol."
It isn't the first time students showed up drunk for the first day of classes. In 2006, several girls showed up bobbing and weaving at the senior tailgate affair, according to school officials. They too were suspended.
I am not writing about this from a high horse, but as a father who has been fed the same baloney that some of those Naperville parents must have been handed to let their teenagers leave the house the night before school starts. It is a low point of parenthood when you realize that you have been conned by your own kids.
But it is never too late to try to make it right.
It doesn't take a village.
It just takes parents who are awake.
• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie.