If only Md. Attorney General Gansler had read Susan Coll’s ‘Beach Week’

"Beach Week," by Susan Coll (Sarah Crichton).

“Beach Week,” by Susan Coll (Sarah Crichton).

What didn’t he know and when didn’t he know it?

Those are the tough questions facing Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) today after the Baltimore Sun published a photograph showing Gansler with teens partying in South Bethany, Del.

The attorney general’s son was among the graduating high school students celebrating “beach week” last June in a rental house. Critics claim he should have done more to stop any underage drinking that might have been going on, but Gansler said he didn’t witness any illegal behavior.

If only the gubernatorial candidate had read Susan Coll‘s novel “Beach Week,” perhaps he wouldn’t be in this fix.

Coll raised three children who went to the Whitman High School in Bethesda, a hotbed of “beach week” hysteria. For several years, she watched what she calls “the institutionalization of this week of debauchery.”

I spoke with her by phone at Politics & Prose, where she works as director of events and programs.

Her novel, she says, “was inspired by seeing the absurdity of parents coming together and thinking that by drawing up contracts and having lots of meetings, they could control teenage behavior.”

She published “Beach Week” in 2010, but nothing has changed.

“The police come to these Bethesda schools,” she laughs, “and they have Q&As with parents about how to control their teens’ behavior during beach week. And every year, no matter how many meetings they hold or how many contracts they draw up, the kids go off and do the same things year after year.”

Gansler isn’t the first adult to find himself in hot water over “beach week.” Coll remembers that another parent, whose child went to a Catholic school in Montgomery County, told her about a one of the fathers — a chaperone — “getting arrested for playing beer pong.”

Like Gansler, Coll once dropped by the goings-on at “beach week,” too. But under slightly different circumstances. “I went when I got a phone call from the Dewey Beach police. It all turned out fine.”

Finding himself in this real-life satire, Gansler is probably hoping for a happy ending, too.

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