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Princeton Police Investigating High School Student Beer Pong Incident

An ABS camera crew outside Princeton High Friday afternoon. Photo: Leticia Fraga.
An ABC camera crew outside of Princeton High Friday afternoon. Photo: Leticia Fraga.

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.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Blake Cash

    Your sarcasm would be more effective if the cute little NAZIs in the photograph weren’t the counselors you wish to refer Ms. Ponder to.

    Enjoy these “wonder years,” while you decide whether you really want to take on the responsibilities of critical thought.

  • Blake Cash

    You mean different issues should be handled differently? Wouldn’t that require judgement? I don’t think you’ll find that in Princeton, which prides itself in stone buildings but not the critical thinking those buildings are supposed to impart.

  • Betterwould

    School officials weigh in – check. Police leadership statements – check. Mayor of the town where this is all happening – awol. Time for more leadership. This situation is a comprehensive problem.

  • Albert

    Agreed on poor judgement. I see bigotry in both the use of icons on a beer pong table and wearing of the Confederate Flag. Most likely the persons in both cases aren’t bigots but just like you said exercising poor judgement. You and I and the rest of the commentators cannot say as we don’t know the students. It’s overreach to posit they are. Can a Jewish student playing the game be considered a bigot?

  • Albert

    Thanks for your intolerance, but you haven’t read my words close enough. “I’m saying neither”. I’m not going to become part of Planet Princeton’s kangaroo court. Nice umlaut.

  • I know I’m not the only one who saw this Snapchat story. Yet here I am, the only one saying anything about it. I am unsure as to what’s worse: the static silence from my peers, or the fact that this happened in the first place.~Jamaica Ponder

    That … outside of the underage drinking … is the real story.

    Read here entire post here: https://jamaicaponder.com/2016/04/06/drinking-games/

  • It seems you are more upset about the blog post my Ms. Ponder than the actual facts of a group of Princeton High School kids drinking alcohol and hosting a holocaust drinking game.

  • I find your tolerance for intolerance intolerable.

  • The students who are upset by the student who was upset by the nature of the game are in need of some counseling.

  • PrincetonResident

    Both are facts that someone might prefer to keep secret rather than make public.

  • EIBRAN

    Both are poor judgment. One is bigotry. Do you not see the difference?

  • EIBRAN

    outing someone for being gay and outing someone for being anti-Semitic are hardly analogous.

  • John Von Neumann

    Ponder is not the issue regardless of what her motivation was. The kids, in the photo, were drinking underage and playing a wildly offensive game. The first is illegal – the second is inexcusable.

    These kids are the most famous high school seniors in America – just what PHS didn’t need.

  • Robert Dana

    Sounds like you are saying the two are equivalent but maybe I’m not following your argument correctly.

    In any event, my guess is that Ms. Ponder will be welcomed by most college communities – including the adminstration and the majority of the student body – with open arms. Her sensibilities are congruent with the political correctness that has infected the academy.

  • John Von Neumann

    The issue here is not social media but first underage drinking presumably to excess in someone’s home and creating a record of it.

    The second part of it is an offensive drinking game that trivializes the Holocaust, offends many and makes PHS students look insensitive and uneducated.

    Note: Creating a record of your underage drinking isn’t too bright either. BTW, many people already know the names of the people in the photo. Great way to get recognized as you head off to college M.

  • Albert

    False equivalences, Robert. False equivalences are my point exactly. Some of the public are drawing an equivalent that these jocks/peps/whatever they are need public outing and sensitivity training for being stupid. Others would say Ms. Ponder’s and her friends’ choice to attend a rave in Brooklyn where alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes (of course the Confederate patch is incidental, but in the spirit of this issue is nonetheless ‘insensitive’) are being consumed by underage persons is also a poor choice and should require intervention. I’m saying neither. Both groups of PHS students in question here (jocks/peps & Ms Ponder’s crew) are displaying poor judgement (do you think if one of those jocks/peps wore that vest to PHS Ms Ponder wouldn’t be on her blog writing about it??). Glass homes. Reading Ms Ponder’s blog (whose entries are catchy with their colorful photos but that reads like the ramblings of an angsty suburban teenager – oh wait!) It appears she has a problem with the diversity and differing opinions and attitudes that are held in America, and can be found at PHS. She’ll probably learn in college that ‘outing’ someone, playing ‘gotcha’, and making veiled insinuations about, and characterizations of, her peers online isn’t a good way to build relationships and in doing so change what you don’t like about the system.

  • Robert Dana

    Thanks brother.

    I agree with your penultimate sentence and will mull over the preceding portions of your post as you present them persuasively and in a heart felt manner.

    I guess I’m hung up on your definition of “permission.”

    Over and out.

  • scott

    I appreciate the civility, Mr. Dana. I personally see no heroes on any side of this event. I feel your last reply is a bit of a fudge. She did not steal the photos but she did lift them into a new public domain without permission and nationalized them. That principle is as worrying as the game played. There is precedent and even law about other forms of this behavior, ie: “revenge porn”– in that case people make public photos that were also naively shared with trusted people–ie: the ex boyfriend who uploads bedroom shots taken and shared permissively and stupidly. I feel people are so wrapped around this specific situation that all principle is lost. Teens armed with pocket cameras hunting each other for indiscretion may have no bounds. The boys were stupid here. But the principle is terrifying and it seems a crappy time to be alive, stupid, and a teenager. Best wishes and thanks again for vicil tone.

  • Robert Dana

    I’m not lauding the blogger. I wouldn’t do what she did. Man code and all that.

    But, I’m not condemning her either or, as here, pointing to silly things in photos of her and asserting her endorsement of them or claiming false equivalence.

    As to your hypo, an extreme case, the outer stole the photographs.

    In the real life case, Ms. Ponder didn’t take anything. It was in the public domain for all to see.

    So, it depends on the facts. It makes little sense to think up extreme situations and apply them to other situations where the facts are very different.

    Life is gray Scotty. Not black or white.

  • Scott

    Yes, but what if the boys had been playing a different game in the basement…say “gay spin the bottle”. And let’s say they shared it with some trusted and like minded friends, perhaps naively or impulsively. Would we be lauding a blogger who opportunistically took a screen grab of that game in order to out that players? What if she did and one of the boys hung himself (like that boy at Rutgers did after WWPHS kids shared his images?). Would she be prosecuted for willfully taking something out of a closed forum with premeditation and effort that had that consequence? In this case, the game played was reprehensible, but who decides. A religious fundamentalist group may decide the other game was offensive. Privacy or not? Or are we flexible based on if we like what is depicted?

  • Robert Dana

    Being in a picture with someone with a Confederate Flag patch doesn’t mean that Ms. Ponder endorses slavery. Maybe she didn’t notice it. Or, if she did, she’s tolerant.

    Moreover, the Confederate flag is susceptible to many meanings, like it or not. The Swastika as a symbol of the National Socislist Party – one meaning.

    Drinking beer – potentially in excess such that one is impaired and can harm oneself and/or others – is much, much more dangerous than smoking a cigarette. The former can present a huge immediate risk. The latter presents a long term risk and is based upon consumption rate over time.

    Peoples’ sense of equivalence, as demonstrated in many of these comments, will be the demise of our culture and society.

  • Robert Dana

    But the blogger got it from someone in the chain who had a right to it. That someone disclosed it. The creator’s beef is with that someone, someone he/she hitherto trusted.

    If someone thinks the alleged ephemeral nature of a SnapChat renders disclosure risk free, he/she is a fool.

    End of discussion.

    Intellectual property rights are not (and shouldn’t be) so different in the virtual and physical worlds. It’s just a little more difficult to police in the former. Have to be careful and guarded.

    How does the old saw go? Best way to keep a secret ….

  • Albert

    Not really, Liz. In one of her earlier blog posts she is seen cavorting with what looks to be a friend who is wearing a vest with a Confederate Flag patch. The group also appears to be smoking. Are you insinuating slavery is not akin to the Holocaust and smoking isn’t as dangerous as drinking beer?

  • Scott

    I think adults tend to lump all “social media” as one thing and conflate it as “public domain”. That us oversimplified and our laws will need to evolve. If I take a private Polaroid and share it w some friends and family, that doesn’t mean it’s in the public. You taking a photo of that Polaroid over the shoulder of a friend and putting it on the Internet is escalatory as is the Daiky News putting minors in national media. There is a system unfolding where major media is “covered legally” by republishing something taken under shady circumstances and put in a blog–gossip columns pay “consultants” to blog stolen private photos so they can claim it was already public. These photos were shared like Polaroids amongst a closed group of friends. The blogger screen-shot it to bring it out iof that private, closed permissive circle and made something private public.

  • Robert Dana

    I saw a grammatical error in Ms. Ponders’ blog post about the infamous beer pong game. I insist this be pointed out immediately to the PHS English Department.

    Seriously, why are people directing enmity toward this young woman?

    The nincompoops who posted their escapade on social media voluntarily disclosed it. They made it part of the public domain. They are not victims. They waived their rights to complain that their privacy was invaded or that Ms Ponder is culpable.

    They have no one to blame but themselves.

  • Liz Winslow

    Somehow, she managed not to mock the Holocaust. See the difference?

  • Robert Dana

    There is no equivalence here. Your comment lacks a nuance.

    The police are required by regulation to cuff someone who did what the lovely professor did, (who, by the way, has yet to apologize or retract her libel.)

    Moreover, if the children were drinking beer openly and notoriously in front of the police – similar to the way the lovely professor sped right by the police – the police would not have hesitated to take swift action against the children.

    I’m sure you would not want the police to affect arrests based on a Facebook post as our criminal procedure laws generally do not allow the police to make arrests based upon hearsay.

  • Robert Dana

    To JV Neumann.

    The police are required by regulation to cuff someone who did what the lovely professor did, (who, by the way, has yet to apologize or retract her libel.)

    Moreover, if the children were drinking beer openly and notoriously in front of the police – similar to the way the lovely professor sped right by the police – the police would not have hesitated to take swift action against the children.

    I’m sure you would not want the police to affect arrests based on a Facebook post as our criminal procedure laws generally do not allow the police to make arrests based upon hearsay.

    There is no equivalence here. Your comment lacks nuance. The real (and great) Johnny Von Neumann would not approve of someone so careless using his name.

  • Robert Dana

    Thanks scollege for reminding us of the facts. Very important things. The facts.

  • Albert

    One of Jamaica’s friends is also wearing a Confederate Flag patch on her vest. Investigate.

  • Albert

    The photo attached to Jamaica’s December 15, 2015 blog entitled The Basement Kids appears to show Jamaica and some other high school age persons sharing what looks to be a joint. Planet Princeton, PHS, and Princeton PD should investigate. If it’s determined it’s just a cigarette then drug counseling won’t be necessary but a lecture on the dangers of nicotine and second hand smoke is surely in order.

  • scollege

    Here we go again:

    – Suspended License
    – No Registration
    – 67 in a 45
    – Several Unpaid Parking Tickets over several years
    – And a court order to arrest, in which the police have no leeway

    Ye Gods. The pattern of someone who feels the law doesn’t apply to them.

  • L.Tallchief

    Seriouusly?!?!!

  • Official Ruling

    There was no vomit on the ping pong table…No gak means they didn’t do jack. The evidence they do lack. This is whack!

  • John Von Neumann

    Considering how quickly the police handcuffed a professor for unpaid parking tickets, they seem to take their time deciding to investigate underage drinking in someone’s home. Considering that it’s 8 miles to Cranbury for an 18 year old who was drinking this seems like the more serious matter.

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