Tam Functions Bring Fun, Destruction


By Daniel Carroll and Jake Isola-Henry

On Friday and Saturday nights many Tam students choose to remain above the influence and have quiet evenings, participating in activities like going to the movies or spending quality time with their family. But perhaps a larger number of kids take the less innocent route on nights like these. A junior boy whom we will call Alvin, who like all of the student sources in this story requested anonymity in order to avoid trouble, explained jokingly that his conversations on weekend nights sound like this, “ Yo man we need some perk, some weed, and you know that we need some girls.”

Tam is home to many students who host parties, better known around campus as “functions.” Amongst counties in California, Marin has the highest binge drinking rates for both adults and adolescents. This need to consume alcohol fosters a need for a location to drink, which for most teens would preferably be at a comfortable house with all of their friends. Senior Steve who asked that his real name be withheld, said “Functions are fun because it is a good way to meet up with your friends and its something to do in sleepy Mill Valley.” Steve described the scene at functions typically consisting of a tobacco and marijuana smoking section outside, drunk students branching out and striking up conversations with new people inside, people roaming all over the place in search of a temporary lover, and of course an area closed off for games. “Drinking games are always a hoot,” Steve said. “They combine competitive fun and drinking. What’s not to love?”  Although drinking games can be an exciting way to consume alcohol as Steve described,  drinking games are one of the leading causes of alcohol poisoning for high school and college students. “Because the games encourage you to consume larger amounts of alcohol in shorter periods of time than in other social settings,” said Henry Wechsler, PhD, director of college alcohol studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, “they increase the risk of injury.”

As one could imagine, the owners of these houses can experience extreme amounts of stress. This is given all that can go wrong at these intoxicated gatherings, whether it be cops arriving or drunken ragers trashing every piece of furniture in the house. However, usually a host’s initial cause for alarm is the overwhelming amount of people that stampede through the door in order to make it into the party.

“You would not even believe how many people were in my house, I didn’t even think that many people could possibly fit in my house,” freshman Andy, who requested that he remain anonymous, said. “Having that many people who I did not really know come into my house just shocked me, shocked me so much that I was completely unable to stop people from coming in, I kinda had PTSD the next morning.”

A sophomore, whom we will call Lisa, also had a party earlier this year, but it was broken up, or  “wrapped”, by the Mill Valley Police Department (MVPD). Looking back, Lisa said, “I was in shock most of the time. There were more people there than I had anticipated, and they just kept on showing up. I wasn’t too scared because I knew that if anything bad were to happen, I had my friends there to support me.”

Oftentimes,  friends may not be enough to stop the party and avoid receiving a fine. According to the MVPD, throwing a function violates the social host ordinance and results in a fine of $750. The Mill Valley social host ordinance law states that if someone has a house party with underage drinking or consumption of other illegal substances, the homeowner is subject to a fine of $750 on the first offense and an $850 fine on the second. Fortunately for Lisa, a “technicality,” that she refused to reveal allowed her to avoid a fine. She said that although the excessive number of partiers was unexpected, having her close friends there, rather than ones looking to exploit her for her house, helped her remain calm and handle the situation the best she could. If someone has an open house for a weekend, the pressure to throw a party can be overwhelming. “As young people, we tend to have a lot of people we call friends but in reality a friend will not pressure you into a situation.  They may suggest it, but usually once you say no, they drop the subject,” Mill Valley Police officer David Koellerer said. “A friend is someone you can rely on anytime of the day or night and someone who will stick up for you even if you are not there.  Real friends don’t get you in trouble, they help you stay out of it.”

Yet friends are often responsible for word spreading rapidly of a house with no parents, often called an “open house” among students. “My friends knew [that my house was open] and they gave my address and directions out to their friends,” a sophomore whom we will refer to as Jane said. Jane described her function beginning as an enjoyable get-together with just close friends casually drinking. However,  that quickly changed when large groups of students started to appear at her door. “As soon as cars full of seniors started showing up it just stressed me out. There were definitely people who I told not to come in who didn’t listen and kept on inviting more of their friends that I didn’t want there,” she said.

According to Steve, many  functions result in the host kicking people out because either he or she is uncomfortable with the number of people or is afraid that parents or police may be coming soon. This forces the intoxicated party-goers to leave the safety of the house and venture through the streets crawling with police. A freshman who will go by Billy for this story was arrested by the MVPD after being forced to exit a party after consuming several shots of vodka topped with some beer. “After the function was shut down by the kid’s dad, we were all walking down the hill toward downtown Mill Valley,” Billy said. “I don’t remember much, but a cop came and stopped us. All of my friends ran away but I thought that we would be fine. Apparently, I resisted arrest by walking away from him and running into a tree, so I was arrested.” Billy was able to clear his arrest by completing his required community service hours, given to him by a juvenile judge. His parents did not let him leave the house on weekend nights for about a month and he claims he is much more cautious when he parties now by drinking less and making sure he always has a ride to and from functions.

Functions like Jane’s, where nothing too valuable is destroyed and nobody gets hurt or sick, can be considered a huge success compared to the chaos that occurs at other functions. Senior Lucy wasn’t as lucky as Jane. According to Lucy, there were over 150 people at her house, and only about 60 or 70 of them attended Tam. “I stood up on a chair and started telling people to leave, but some dude that I did not even know pulled the chair out from under me,” she said. “People stole laptops from my house, they smashed all of the full length mirrors in my room, they threw squash at the wall. I finally had to call the cops on my house because it was so out of control.” Lucy did not receive a social host ordinance fine for throwing a party, because she called the cops on her own house. “I have only had one person call the cops on there own house,” said Officer Koellerer, “and it was the smartest thing for that person to do.”

However, not all functions are stressful or disastrous, and for many, functions can be an enjoyable experience. “The best part about Tam parties is that everyone is usually really friendly with each other and you can make a lot of new friends,” junior Paige said. Jane, who has both thrown and attended functions added, “Functions can potentially be really fun and they’re a huge part of high school, but I understand what is is like to be the person throwing down and it can be really stressful.”

Koellerer reported that the MVPD averages about one phone call reporting a house party per weekend, showing that parents continually  leave their children at home alone, hoping that they will make the right decision.  “All parents were kids once,” he said,   “I don’t think they are naive but I think some parents blindly trust their children.  I think it is this trust which allows them to be okay with leaving for a weekend… parents should be aware of the consequences but teens need to know the consequences of their own actions more.”