Apple Valley High School's DECA club has been suspended indefinitely, the result of a history of underage drinking at club competitions.
The school’s DECA club, which stands for Distributive Education Club of America, had a membership of 30 students and has had a long history at Apple Valley High School. AVHS Principal Steve Degenaar said the club was started 25 to 30 years ago as a way for business students to make presentations and speeches, gaining valuable real-world experience.
However, the school began investigating the club after an Oct. 28 incident when hotel security found approximately 60 students from several high schools in a hotel room in Bloomington where AVHS DECA students were staying during a district competition. Several of the students were drinking, including seven to nine AVHS students. The incident was first reported in Sun Thisweek on Nov. 28.
Following an in-school investigation, AVHS DECA Coaches John Christianson and Chris Scanlon resigned. Degenaar said they were devastated to find that the club has had a history of underage drinking for years and said the only way to send a message was to stop the club for awhile. According to District 196 School Board meeting minutes from Nov. 28, the coaches had reviewed with students the rules and expected behavior at the beginning of the school year.
With no other business teachers to continue the program, Degenaar, with the backing of the district superintendent, decided to suspend the DECA program.
“Any time your coaches or advisors step down in mid-season, it is very difficult to keep going,” he said. “It’s a good program. It’s not being suspended because we don’t see the value of it. But the actions of a few sometimes affect everybody. Democracy in the United States is set up for that reason.”
Apple Valley was considering dropping the club in 2010 when the longtime adviser retired, but students and parents rallied to raise money to cover competition expenses. Then Christianson and Scanlon, both business teachers at Apple Valley, agreed to coach the club.
It is possible, Degenaar said, that the program could be reinstated by the fall of 2015. But if that happens, DECA students will only be staying overnight in hotels for national competitions, which usually involve much smaller groups of students.
“It removes the temptation of other things happening behind closed doors,” Degenaar said.
Parents and other adults will also be encouraged to chaperone at district, state and national events.
“We need to increase our adult presence because we don’t want to go down this path again,” Degenaar said.
He hopes that if the club is reinstated, a new culture and attitude can bring pride back to the program.
There are 50 after-school programs at AVHS, but few involve overnight hotel stays like DECA did, Degenaar said. Many other clubs and activities have stopped overnight hotel stays because it is so hard to supervise students.
Rosemount High School is the only other high school in District 196 that has a DECA club. Parents have asked if it is possible to have their students compete through Rosemount, but Degenaar does not think that will be possible with eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, Degenaar said there are no other clubs at Apple Valley that fill the unique niche DECA served.