By Denise Dick
The Diocese of Youngstown has asked city police to investigate reports of Cardinal Mooney High School students drinking alcohol during a celebration of the state football championship earlier this month.
“We have heard reports and received letters of alcohol being brought into school during the state championship celebration,” said Nicholas Wolsonovich, acting superintendent of diocese schools. “We sought some advice, and as a result of that advice, we conducted an internal investigation.”
That internal probe resulted in the diocese’s notifying police, he said.
“There is certainly reason to think this needs to be investigated by people who know how to investigate,” Wolsonovich said. “On the basis of that, we turned it over to police.”
A meeting is set for today with Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley about the matter.
Foley said he’ll review the findings of the diocese’s internal investigation to determine if it warrants a criminal investigation or is something that’s more suited to being handled administratively by the school. He said he’ll keep the city prosecutor and a juvenile prosecutor from the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office in the loop.
As a Mooney tradition, after a championship, team members and students return to the school after the game, ring the victory bell in the school courtyard, sing songs and cheer.
Because of the probe, an assembly planned for today to mark the championship has been postponed.
A memo sent earlier this week by Mooney Principal John Young to school staff calls the incident a “champagne celebration” that occurred in the locker room Dec. 2.
Also after the state championship, four students were identified in possession of cigars, a violation of school rules.
Wolsonovich said that those students were given one-day suspensions in accordance with school policy, but 41 members of the team have said they will serve the one-day suspension out of solidarity.
The cigars were supplied by a parent, the acting superintendent said.
Part of the alcohol investigation will involve who supplied that to the students. It’s expected to include interviews with students, faculty and staff members, Wolsonovich said. When the police investigation is complete, the diocese will review it, hold those responsible accountable and take appropriate action, he said.
“The important thing is the institution does the right thing, reports it to the authorities and [does] not hide anything,” Wolsonovich said. “We’re working to make sure we respond fairly and appropriately.”