"Shmacked" videos cause alarm in schools

February 22, 2012 3:45:25 PM PST
Parents in Lower Merion could soon find out if their teens were caught on camera at parties where students appeared to be doing drugs and drinking alcohol.

The school district sent out a letter to parents on Tuesday. It warned that students have been featured on YouTube videos, engaging in drug use and underage drinking.

It's a trend called "getting shmacked" or so intoxicated on drugs and alcohol that one can barely function.

"I've heard that some stupid kids were on the internet posting videos of themselves drinking. I think it's pretty ridiculous," said senior Josh Stapp. "They better watch themselves."

The videos at the center of the letter showed former and current students of Harriton High "getting shmacked."

One student who claims to have been in the Lower Merion movie spoke to Action News.

"The alcohol wasn't even real; it was just juice mixed up. We were just having fun. Come on, they are taking this seriously. We are just having the times of our lives here," the student said.

One video on the "I'm Shmacked" website showed students from Temple University, who also earned $25 t-shirts for appearing in the video.

"It's ridiculous, I think. If you do something like that then you shouldn't show it to everybody," said sophomore Haley Christman.

The letters to parents points out that college acceptances and scholarships could be on the line reading, in part, "Though all of the activities occur off campus, and the film appears to have been recorded last summer, it is critical that there are swift and appropriate consequences. Where we have the authority and power to act and respond, we will"

Those videos have been taken down from the web. However, in the letter, the district said it shared the video with law enforcement.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman told Action News on Wednesday that she has watched the video and says, at this point, this is more of a community and school issue. Still, she urges parents to take the opportunity to talk to their children about the dangers of these actions and the consequences for their future.

"Once you put something out on the internet it is there forever, somebody has access to it forever. This site, they could take down the video but there is probably someone who has it - there may be a few people who have it. The fact that it's out there and accessible - it's going to be impossible for some kids to get away from that," Ferman said.

The School District sent home the following letter, which was posted on the district's website:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Earlier today, we learned about a company that posts YouTube videos of high school and college students engaged in apparent underage drinking and illegal drug use. One of the videos included footage of current and former LMSD high school students. Though the video is no longer online, we had an opportunity to view it and it was shared with local law enforcement.

The activities depicted in the video are reprehensible and cause for great concern. They include binge drinking, marijuana use, substance-induced violence and several dangerous situations involving drugs and alcohol in vehicles. Though all of the activities occur off campus, and the film appears to have been recorded last summer, it is critical that there are swift and appropriate consequences. Where we have the authority and power to act and respond, we will. We are in the process of notifying parents of students that appear in the video and will do so by Thursday afternoon. We ask for continued parental support in conveying the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.

The video also serves as a reminder that whether or not your child is engaging in harmful and illegal activities, there may still be significant consequences for attending events where such activities occur. In this age of social media and immediate electronic communication, video and photographic images often do not distinguish the "innocent" bystanders from the "guilty" participants. Students that participate in school sports or other competitive activities may face a team suspension even if they haven't had a sip of beer, but are found to have been "in the room" at a party where alcohol is served. On the line are college acceptances, scholarships and personal reputation. It's simply not worth the risk.

Most important is the health and safety of your children. There are extensive resources available in our community to address substance use, dependency and addiction. While the District always shares this information directly with families whose children are involved in specific incidents, we encourage any family who seeks education, confidential guidance or support to contact your child's school counselor or any member of the LMSD health services team at (610) 645-1829.

We trust this troubling incident will serve as a valuable learning experience for our students and families. Our staff is available to support you should you need assistance or guidance in discussing this matter with your child. As you know, our primary concern is ensuring the safety and well-being of all students. We appreciate your ongoing support and dedication to this effort.

Sincerely,

Steven Kline
Principal, Harriton High School

Sean Hughes
Principal, Lower Merion High School


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