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Former H.S. Teacher Jailed for Hosting Underage Drinking, Weed Parties

April 8. 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kristin M. McElroy, 215.348.6336, kmmcelroy@buckscounty.org 
    

Jeffrey Zeltt
       Jeffrey Zeltt

A former teacher at Hatboro-Horsham High School was sentenced today to serve five to 23 months in prison for repeatedly hosting parties at his home where he supplied teens with alcohol and marijuana.

Jeffrey Zeltt, 51, of Warrington Township, had pleaded guilty Feb. 14 to charges of endangering the welfare of children; corruption of minors; furnishing liquor to minors; possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia; and distributing small amounts of marijuana.

In addition to the county prison sentence, Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Theodore Fritsch sentenced Zeltt to a consecutive year of probation.

Zeltt said he permitted and even encouraged the drinking and pot parties while he and his children were trying to cope with the suicide of his wife in the summer of 2015.

“I let it happen,” he said of the gatherings. “I encouraged it.”

Zeltt said he was “self-medicating” with alcohol and prescription drugs after his wife’s death, and felt that his teenage daughters seemed happier and less grief-stricken when their friends were constantly around them at the parties. In retrospect, he said, he should have sought counseling immediately for himself and his children.

“At the time … I was just out of my mind; I didn’t even think it was wrong,” Zeltt said. He added that he believed he was being responsible by letting the teens sleep over and not letting them drive while drunk or impaired.

Having sought mental health and drug and alcohol counseling, Zeltt said, he realizes he “was a terrible parent, a terrible adult. I betrayed my daughters and their friends.”

Zeltt’s daughters have been removed from his custody and have been living with the families of friends since his arrest, he said. He also lost his job with the Hatboro-Horsham School District, where he had taught for many years, defense attorney Michael Parlow said.

Parlow argued for leniency, noting that Zeltt had no prior record, had already lost his employment and pension, and would be saddled with a felony record for the rest of his life.

“After the suicide of his wife,” Parlow said, “he just fell off a ledge.”

Deputy District Attorney Kristin M. McElroy, however, said that Zeltt should be held to a higher standard than other parents. As a longtime teacher, he should have known to set boundaries with teens, and to know how easily influenced they are, she argued.

McElroy said parents felt an added sense of security in letting their children go to Zeltt’s house, reasoning that since he was a teacher there was little cause to worry. He betrayed that trust, she said, by allowing up to 50 teens at a time to drink and smoke marijuana at his home, and by actively supplying them with alcohol and pot.

“He not only allowed this to happen at his house, he facilitated it,” McElroy said.

Fritsch noted that Zeltt’s actions were “a continuing course of conduct … It wasn’t just one party where you provided alcohol and marijuana.” Police alleged that the drinking parties happened regularly for the better part of a year.

“You certainly crossed boundaries when it came to your relationship with the teenagers in your home,” the judge said. “You crossed boundaries … and became much too personal with the teenagers.”

Fritsch ordered Zeltt to have no contact with persons under age 20 during his probation, to have no contact with the victims in the case, and to continue with his therapy. He said he would approve of Zeltt being screened for work release during his incarceration.

Approved for release by Alan J. Garabedian, Deputy District Attorney.

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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