By Michaela Kron

A trip to Scotland this month by 51 North Springs Charter School of Arts and Sciences students to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was cut short for 24 teens after an alcohol episode on the first weekend of the trip.

The students were the cast and crew of North Springs’ acclaimed production of Bat Boy: The Musical, which they presented at the international festival. The three-week Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival, and this year was the second time North Springs students were invited to perform. The school presented Urinetown in 2006.

Late at night between Aug. 3 and 4, three students were caught drinking, and 21 others were later implicated. The 14 recent graduates, seven seniors, two juniors and one sophomore were sent home early Aug. 6. The remaining 27 students returned to Atlanta on Aug. 11.

Before leaving for the Fringe Festival, all participants were required to sign a contract with the American High School Theatre Festival that outlined the penalty for drinking on the trip, regardless of whether the students were 18, the legal drinking age in Britain.

One student from the trip said those who were caught drinking and returned home early reached a consensus that they would not talk about the situation with anyone. According to another unnamed source, many of the students involved felt that the situation was magnified by the media to an unnecessary extent, and they did not feel comfortable adding to it.

Despite the situation, which has become a topic of discussion throughout Sandy Springs, North Springs Principal Lisa Stueve expressed the hope that the image of the school and its performing arts program will not be harmed. “Students make mistakes in every possible program, not just in the performing arts,” she said. “I just hope that the program continues to develop.”

In her e-mail newsletter sent Aug. 15 to parents, Stueve wrote:

“You are likely aware through the media of the early return of 24 students representing our high school at the Fringe Festival in Scotland. I think it is important for you to know that the students involved violated a pledge they signed with the American High School Theater Festival, as well as a Fulton County Schools’ board policy. To the students’ credit, they admitted breaking the rules, and to the credit of the chaperones, they followed through with the agreed upon consequence.

“The students involved and their parents deeply regret the students’ actions and the negative publicity which has resulted. The parents each responsibly paid the additional charges necessary to modify airline tickets for the students’ early return.

“Additionally, you may be aware of a similar incident involving some of our Spartan cheerleaders. Again, the students involved violated an agreement with Georgia High School Association of Interscholastic Activities, as well as Fulton County Schools.”

Stueve added: “We at North Springs regret the actions of both groups, but know that learning by one’s mistakes can be a very powerful teaching tool. We hope that they and all our students will learn that actions have consequences, sometimes unfortunate and unintended.”

The cast and crew of Bat Boy dedicated a great deal of time and effort during the school year toward raising money for the trip. The cost of the trip amounted to $292,000, and $100,000 of that came from donations from businesses, grants and ticket sales from performances. Those involved also earned money by presenting the musical at the Alliance Theatre for two nights in June.

Of the businesses that helped sponsor the trip, the few contacted declined to comment on the situation.