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Stephen F. Austin arrests following Gallegos death

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10/15/07 – Nacogdoches
Education and Arrests Follow Death of SFA Student

by Donna McCollum

Two people have been arrested in connection with the alcohol poisoning death of an Stephen F. Austin State University student.   James Pessagno, 19, of Nacogdoches turned himself into the police on Friday. On Monday, Tyler Bishop, 23, was arrested. Both were arrested for making alcohol available to a minor. That’s a class A misdemeanor. The arrest stems from the death of Nikolas Gallegos, 18,  of Mesquite. The men were released on bail.

The week of their son’s death the parents said they were against any charges being filed.   Floyd Gallegos said, ” We don’t want any charges filed against anybody. One life is gone, bunch of lives already been affected. We don’t want anyone else to be affected by this. There’s no reason for it. “   Nacogdoches police say the case is still under investigation and further charges and arrests may occur.

Law enforcement must do their job and so do counselors. On Monday alcohol abuse forums were conducted by SFA staff.   Counselors contend education about the dangers of alcohol abuse is the key to prevention, but even they realize the advice isn’t always followed. Michael Preston, SFA director of student life said,  ” That’s both easy and hard to do. It’s easy to remember, but it’s hard to do when you have peer pressure following you at a party. ”

Yet they try. A doctor gave the unpleasant affects of alcohol poisoning. Dr. John Miller often sees students who have had too much to drink at the university health clinic. ” Confusion, stupor, vomiting, seizures, slow irregular breathing, blue tinge to the skin, low body temperature and unconsciousness or passing out are all of those signs of acute alcohol poisoning.”

Dr. Peggy Scott with the Student Judicial Office presented the punishments.    ” On the second offense your bumped up to disciplinary probation which will hinder your coming and going here at the university,”  she warned.

All good things to know, but student representatives say the forum lacked a key participant….students. Student body president Kent Willis said,  ” The forum should be the other way around. It should be students on stage and teachers sitting up there pounding us with questions going, ‘What are ya’ll needing to do to make sure this doesn’t happen to your classmate?’, and that’s something we definitely addressed.”

But can the responsibility come soon enough? That’s the question asked by students, staff and a 7 year old boy who wrote a letter to help him understand a death of a big brother. Counselor Sheri Mullican read what was written.  ” Nikki sent a powerful message to everyone so they don’t die like Nikki did and don’t get alcohol poisoning. But he is very special to me. I’m very happy with the people at the party who knew something wrong with him and they took him to the hospital, but they were too late. ”

According to MADD statistics, every year drinking by college age students, ages of 18 to 24 contributes to 1700 student deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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