Reporter’s notebook: Observing aftermath of parties that shut the schools

The Pelham school district’s switch to virtual learning Thursday and Friday because of two days of partying by high school students at Split Rock Golf Course left behind graffiti and drew the attention of media outlets from outside the town.

Though the Pelham Examiner covered the incident first, it quickly caught the attention of WCBS 2 New York, News 12, News 4 (WNBC), the Journal News and WABC 7, exposing what some in Pelham probably wanted to keep quiet.

I initially grabbed my camera to go snap photos of the aftermath of the party, as I had seen a huge graffiti “Seniors 21” on Snapchat two nights before. I was also encouraged by my editors to go find the WABC Channel 7 van somewhere in town, which I feared would be an impossible task.

But I parked at Pelham Middle School just as the WABC truck arrived and started chatting with the station’s reporter. We spoke about journalism. He gave me helpful advice for street photography, and he asked me about my take as a student on what had happened. Once I was asked to do a brief interview, I realized that I was still Covid-style in my pajamas—tie-dye sweatpants and my dad’s old fraternity shirt—and I was going to be speaking on the record for the evening news.

After the interview, I hung around and continued to take photos of the news truck and then traveled to the sight of the party itself.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there weren’t broken bottles and crushed cans, but the graffiti left behind was large and intense. In fact, maintaining the anonymity of party attendants was a difficult task, as initials and names were painted next to the giant “Seniors 21.” Framing the shot was like going through a laser tripwire—precise and tedious.

The fact attendees expected not to face consequences after not wearing masks and putting it all over Snapchat, and spray-painting identifying information on the sides of a bridge, is a testament to Pelham’s collective act of pretending that the problem doesn’t exist.

This is not an easy topic to choose a side on. Though the teenagers made an absurdly inconsiderate decision, the lack of backbone among Pelham’s people is what gave them the mindset they could do this. It’s easy to blame the teens, but it was 11 p.m. Did you know where your child was?

Here are some of the other stories that have been done: