Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Two residents warn school board of problems caused by senior scavenger hunt—and worse that could come from underage drinking and reckless behaviors

Pelham Examiner file photo

Pelham Manor residents Tina and John Kasper told the school board Wednesday about disturbances they and their neighbors experienced because of the scavenger hunt run by the senior class of Pelham Memorial High School on Sept. 2, going on to warn of problems that could come from underage drinking and other reckless behaviors.

During the public comment period of the board meeting, Tina Kasper, who had been home alone that night recovering from a recent surgery, said, “around 10 p.m., someone started ringing my front doorbell and banging very violently on my door. It sounded as if someone was actually trying to ram the door with their body and break in.”

She said that, in a terrified state, she crawled into the kitchen and called the police. By the time officers arrived, the people slamming on her door had left.

“The next morning, my neighbors were out picking up the trash left by the kids, and we started chatting with each other,” said Kasper. “We came to learn that this was the annual scavenger hunt. We found crumbled papers along the street with a few of the tasks that the teens perform to earn points in the game”.

Kasper said tasks listed on the paper included “sex in the hut at the Bartow-Pell Mansion,” “24 shots for the class of 2024” and “run a lap around Shore Park naked.”

The couple talked with Village of Pelham Manor Mayor Jennifer Monachino Lapey, Village Manager Lindsey Luft and Police Chief Thomas Atkins about the scavenger hunt, In a Sept. 8 email to residents, the Village of Pelham Manor said, “Our police department has been made aware of mischievous behavior that will not be tolerated. We are reaching out to our community to ask for your partnership to ward off this conduct.” In a follow-up email to the Pelham Examiner, Luft said the behaviors included “trespassing onto private residential property by youths, which, from my understanding, has been for the sake of ‘pranks’ or ‘scavenger hunts.'”

Underage drinking can lead to behavior that is a lot riskier and frankly much more reckless.

— Tina Kasper

“I’m on a mission to raise community awareness against this problem,” said Tina Kasper. “I just want parents to understand that things are somewhat different then when they ‘went to the woods.’ I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Underage drinking can lead to behavior that is a lot riskier and frankly much more reckless.”

Although the school board has an unwritten policy of not replying to public comments or questions, Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ and several trustees spoke to the Kaspers’ concerns.

This is not a school-sanctioned event,” said Champ. “This is a longstanding tradition that many communities have and (PMHS Principal Mark) Berkowitz has notified parents of this every year. This is something that is outside of school and is generally before school. It’s off school property, and the message is always sent to students about making good choices, being good neighbors, being good citizens and representing their school. They don’t always do that in the way we hope them to.”

Ian Rowe, vice president of the school board, asked Champ if there was anything in the school code of conduct that applied to the hunt.

No, because there’s no nexus to school in that it was completely outside of school time, off school property and did not cause a disruption to school,” said Champ. “It was all outside of our jurisdiction.” 

“Though it’s not really a disciplinary issue for us because it was outside of school, I think there is an educational opportunity here,” said Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane, president of the board.

John Kasper then spoke about possible solutions to the problem, despite it being beyond the board or the school’s jurisdiction.

“To me, I feel like we have really great sports here, and I really feel like the captains of the teams should be advocates of good behavior,” said Kasper. “Maybe they could be the ones who could advocate because most of the kids look up to them.”

Champ said the district met with Pelham Together earlier that day to partner with the captains of athletic teams to ensure they are being leaders who help their teammates make good choices.

Pelham Chases Space

Astronaut, author and scientist Leland Melvin.

Dr. Tom Callahan, director of mathematics and science, announced the launch of the Pelham Chases Space initiative surrounding Leland Melvin’s “Chasing Space” memoir. Melvin has been a NASA astronaut, NFL player, material scientist, photographer and the White House STEM education advisor.

“Leland Melvin has a very interesting story, and his experiences really cross the disciplines, which is why we really like him,” said Callahan.

As part of the program, Melvin will be coming to the school district on Oct. 3 for the launch event of Pelham Chases Space in the high school auditorium. He will be speaking to the sixth grade, as well as the physics and astronomy classes in the high school.

Other Pelham Chases Space events include student-led book discussions at the Town of Pelham Public Library, a monthly movie night at the Picture House, author visits, art exhibits, a creative writing challenge, an astronaut food challenge, stomp rocket building and STEAM day. The initiative is set to end in June with the annual rocket launch by AP Physics 2 students.

The school district will be collaborating with the Pelham Public Library, Pelham Recreation, The Picture House Regional Film Center, Pelham Civic Association, Pelham Together, the Girl Scouts and others.

In 2021, the district ran the Pelham Harnesses the Wind program, which contained “Ask a scientist” events, a diversity-in-STEM movie series and book discussions with the author of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”

The next board of education meeting will take place Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pelham Middle School library.

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About the Contributor
Annika Halvorson, Staff Reporter
Annika is a junior at Pelham Memorial High School. She is a senator in the student association and a volleyball player. She is the president of the PMHS Chemistry Club, and is interested in coding and computer science. She enjoyed writing for a journalism fellowship at the start of highschool and looks forward to writing with the Pelham Examiner!

Comments (1)

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    Bob ShepherdSep 19, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    Scavenger Hunt: In a nutshell, for over a year now at least, the school has made it clear that the hunt is not sanctioned by the school or on school property. That to me says that the buck stops squarely with the parents of those participating. If and when individuals are caught behaving out of order, then a visit to their parents from the police should be in order. There have been high schoolers from the time that I’ve lived in Pelham, flying around the roads of Pelham in vehicles powerful enough to become deadly weapons when misdriven, simply because their parents have loaned or bought them that particular vehicle. If parents aren’t held to account for their children’s bad and sometimes dangerous behavior, then it goes without saying that one day soon a serious accident or incident will take place, as youngsters bravado kicks in while showing off in front of friends…and that’s without the addition of alcohol or drugs. I believe that in every group there is a natural leader, and at least one with common sense…the two don’t always go together though.

    Pelham Chases Space: It’s terrific to see the hard work that Dr Tom Callahan and his team have done over the recent years. In STEM Pelham definitely punches above it’s weight when competing with other schools in Westchester. But to Dr Callahan, that doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s still more to go for…”always a little further.” Terrific to see that this initiative will be launched shortly…and what an individual to visit Pelham to introduce it. My family and I have followed Leland Melvin for a while now, he’s a terrific individual. If this man’s presence can’t get students passionate about STEM, then I don’t know who can? All the very best to the sixth grade and up with your STEM years ahead.