Mother charged for teen drinking

Party led to suspension of 10 Bear River athletes; some say punishment was too harsh
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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Recent charges against a Grass Valley mother have resurfaced a dark moment players of the Bear River High School girls basketball team would like to put behind them. Nevada County District Attorney Clifford Newell charged Nicole Frances Osterholt with two misdemeanor counts of contributing to delinquency of minors and providing alcohol to persons under 21. The District Attorney's Office filed a misdemeanor complaint Feb. 21. Newell said Thursday he wouldn't comment further on the investigation. He said Osterholt's arraignment is scheduled for March 13. Osterholt was charged with allegedly supplying wine and vodka to nine girls and two boys who ranged in age from 15 to 17 years old. Attempts to contact Osterholt were unsuccessful. The charges follow an abrupt end to the Bear River girls basketball season. At the end of January, 10 of the 11 varsity team players were suspended for violating the school's athletic code. The suspension included no game playing for 30 days, which led to the team's forfeit of the rest of its season. But some players and coaches say the punishment went too far. The suspensions came when an unknown person supplied the school district with evidence that the 10 players had consumed alcohol at two different parties held in private homes after school hours. One party was held at a Granite Bay home but was not investigated by the Placer County Sheriff's Office, according to Dena Erwin, sheriff's office spokeswoman. The other party is reported to have taken place at a Grass Valley home where Osterholt allegedly served alcohol to the minors. The school conducted its own investigation. Officials used reliable, reputable information and talked to the parties involved before moving forward with a decision, according to Duwaine Ganskie, Bear River High School athletic director. He declined to comment further on the investigation. The school contacted the Nevada County Sheriff's Office. The office conducted a report and then passed it on to Newell, said Lt. John Kropp with the Nevada County Sheriff's Office. Ganskie said the school used information from both the Grass Valley and Granite Bay parties to come to its decision. Making the decision with the end result in mind, however, was difficult, Ganskie said. We've had many instances over the course of my 20 years but never to the degree where so many people from one team were involved all at once and it required us to end the season because we had no participants, Ganskie said. That's what makes this one unique. For some of the parents, the punishment was too harsh. Mike Spencer, parent of one of the basketball players, said he is proud of the way the players have handled the consequences. But, he said he contacted three attorneys trained in education law who all agreed that the girls did not break the code. That's the bottom line, Spencer said. The impact of the players' decisions and the punishment has spread much further than Auburn and Grass Valley. Scott Barry, Placer High School girls basketball coach said it hit his team hard when they realized they couldn't play one of the top competitors in the league. The team was scheduled to play Bear River the night after the players were suspended. Besides being the only scheduled Friday night home game for Placer, it affected league scores and schedule, Barry said. The punishment, however, did open the door for more discussion on the topic between Barry and his players. They got to see firsthand the effects. As teenagers they seem to think they never get caught. To see it happen and how it affected so many more people, it kind of hit home a little bit, Barry said. Amanda Wagner said she was shocked to hear the news. The 18-year-old Placer High girls basketball center and her teammates initially thought their coach was joking when he called to tell them Bear River had forfeited. Wagner said it surprised her to hear the athletes even thought about drinking alcohol when knowing the consequences. I was shocking that it happened, that the girls chose to be there, she said. When asked how she handles the pressure to imbibe in alcohol or drugs that typically accompanies athletics “ something players and coaches have acknowledged “ she said she thinks about the overall negative impact to her team, the school, her family and the community. When you play a sport you sign a contract and you follow the rules, she said. Wagner said consequences were in order, but making a decision that resulted in ending the season went too far. Barry agreed. He said a zero-tolerance policy actually hurts students more. In previous years, Placer High had such a policy. But then teachers and athletic officials convened and developed new policy in which students are suspended for five days and then resume athletic activity on the provision of doing 20 supervised hours of community service. I think zero tolerance is a very bad idea because we're in the education business. Teenagers are bound to make mistakes, Barry said. You don't want to set them up for failure, you want them to learn from this. Ganskie said now the Bear River players have done just that and are concentrating on the future. Many have enrolled in spring sports and are focusing on academics. We're hopeful that it's going to be laid to rest, Ganskie said. We're very proud of the way (the players) have handled it and responded to the consequences. They're ready to move on.