The Princeton Police Department has started an investigation into the circumstance surrounding the photo of a group of Princeton High students playing “Jews vs. Nazis” beer pong.
On Friday, police received information from an anonymous source about the photo of the beer pong game that has been circulating on social media and the news. The photo shows seven high school students standing around a table with dozens of cans of Coors Light in the basement of a Princeton home last weekend.
“In New Jersey it is not illegal for minors to possess and consume alcohol on private property such as a residence,” Princeton Police Lt. John Bucchere said. “However, it is illegal for anyone to serve alcohol to minors or to make a place available for minors to consume alcohol.”
In New Jersey, possession of alcohol by minors on private property is regulated by local ordinances in most towns, including most municipalities in Mercer County.
A Princeton task force that included town officials, Princeton University officials, police officers, health department representatives and leaders of student eating clubs at Princeton declined this January to recommend that the town adopt such an ordinance. Princeton officials expressed concerns about civil liberties being violated.
Officials and representatives from the university said making it illegal for minors to drink on private property would cause people to be reluctant to call for help in emergencies out of fear that they could get in trouble. They also said the ordinance would have to be applied to all private residences, including dorms and the private eating clubs would be affected.
On Friday, the fallout from the beer pong game continued as national news channels showed up in front of Princeton High School to interview students as they left school. Some students, angered by the coverage, gave the camera crews Nazi salutes. Many students are upset because they feel the photo has given the entire school a bad name, when the game involved a small group of students. Some students have criticized a fellow student who blogged about how upsetting the photo was and shared the photo earlier this week.
Early Friday evening, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane issued a second statement about the incident, noting that any disciplinary action against any students is confidential.
“We are counseling the individual students affected by what happened,” Cochrane said. “We are meeting with faculty and with student leaders. We are planning for a possible school-wide discussion. We are considering offering specific programs for students, parents and staff; and we are examining those points in our curriculum where we can enhance students’ understanding of key issues such as alcohol use, social media and tolerance of different faiths and cultures.”
The school district is also seeking assistance from other organizations and individuals,” Cochrane said.
“We spoke several times yesterday with the rabbi at the Princeton Jewish Center, and he met with our high school principal today,” Cochrane said. “Holocaust education is already part of our K-12 curriculum and, indeed, we have a Holocaust survivor coming to speak at our middle school later this month.”
Cochrane said the issues of underage drinking, the misuse of social media, and of bias and intolerance are not new or unique to Princeton.
“We have been – and will continue to – address them honestly and forthrightly,” he said.
School Board President Andrea Spalla also issued a statement on behalf of the school board late Thursday night saying the board was concerned about the photo depicting the insensitive drinking game.
“Superintendent Cochrane, Principal Snyder and PHS staff have responded quickly and with care to address the complex issues raised, and as a board, we are confident in their ability to properly handle this matter,” Spalla said.
“Princeton Public Schools does not tolerate prejudices of any kind. Clearly we have work to do. This incident raises difficult questions for all of us in the community about what we are teaching our children both in school and at home,” she said. “As a district we will closely examine our efforts to address the root causes of these problems to ensure that Princeton Public Schools remains first and foremost a place of tolerance and caring.”