April and May are typically associated with prom, graduation, and after parties. In an effort to maintain control, some parents may decide to provide alcohol in the safety of their own homes. But is that really the solution?
According to the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC), in 2008, 63 percent of students from seventh to 12th grade said they had already consumed alcohol. The same report said that when minors 10 to 18 years old were asked how they were given the alcohol, 65 percent reported family and friends were the leading source.
Between January 2015 and February 2016, Highland Park Police Department issued 15 citations for consumption by a minor, and University Park issued 51.
In the same timeframe, HPPD reported no arrests for consumption by a minor, while UPPD made 14. Since 2013, police have broken up seven house parties in the Park Cities where minors consumed alcohol.
“It’s a common misconception among parents that … if they supervise their teen drinking, that teen will be less likely to abuse alcohol,” said Susan Morgan, Chemical Awareness Resources and Education (CARE) Executive Director. “But research absolutely shows that parents who allow drinking in their household, the encouraging of those students to drink does not reduce their drinking, in fact, it increases their dependence of alcohol.”
One example of a parent-supervised party gone wrong was reported by Park Cities People on Dec. 9, 2014: Officers broke up a party in the 3700 block of Crescent Avenue, where they found around 45 underage drinkers — including several HPHS students — in the pool house. Two of the minors lied about their parents not being home, because shortly afterward, their mother came down the stairs after trying to hide from the police. She was cited for failure to supervise a child, and a 17-year old HPHS junior was cited for minor in possession. Others were released to the custody of their parents.
THE LEGAL IMPLICATION
The mother’s citation follows HP ordinance 1645 — passed in February 2006 — which fines a person who allows their residence, commercial property, or rented premises to be used for a party with minors in attendance and where alcohol is served, consumed, or ingested.
UP has not developed any city ordinances, and enforces state law regarding minors consuming alcohol, UP spokesperson Officer Lita Snellgrove said.
“Even though youth identified parents as one of their primary sources of alcohol, parents are the most influential person or thing in a child’s decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion,” the TABC said in Alcohol & Your Child: Facts about Underage Drinking Every Parent Should Know.
While Texas law allows a minor to drink an alcoholic beverage while in the presence of a parent, if the child leaves their parent they can be arrested when the individual is publicly intoxicated, said HPPD spokesperson Lt. Lance Koppa.
“Generally, when we come into contact with people underage, they’re going to be a minor in consumption or possession [of alcohol], so that citation will be issued and they’ll be released to their parents,” Koppa added.
UPPD follows a similar procedure. If a citation is issued, the officer will call the parents, and the minor will have to go through the court process, Snellgrove said. Since it’s a Class C misdemeanor, the court will typically sign the minor up for a program like CARE’s New Directions education course as part of their sentence.
Education can be the first step to preventing minors from taking to the bottle at a young age. From Red Ribbon Week for elementary students, to Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) at McCulloch Middle School, to Project Purple hosted by the HPHS student council, HPISD offers multiple avenues of information for students.
HPISD’s coordinator for student integrity and compliance Jerry Sutterfield wants to bring the parents into the conversation, in addition to providing educational programming to students.
Sutterfield works with CARE to bring speakers to HPHS students and parents, and oversees two student-run groups, True Grit and Arrow Club — where they discuss the ramifications of underage drinking amongst themselves and middle schoolers.
high school drinking
During the past 30 days
35% drank some amount of alcohol
21% binge drank
10% drove after drinking alcohol
22% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
11% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. is done so by people ages 12 to 20 years old.
SOURCE: CDC’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey
He also hosts a round table group for parents, which discusses various scenarios, including teenagers and alcohol use. Within the round table, Sutterfield has heard parents share concerns of adults who provide alcohol to minors. But his job is not to judge.
“Yes, there are adults in our community that provide places and they provide alcohol to kids. Those are choices parents make,” he said. “I’m not going to look at the parents and say ‘you’re wrong,’ or ‘you’re right.’”
CARE started more than 30 years ago in the Park Cities as a group of concerned citizens who had been touched by addiction or alcoholism to provide educational resources and referrals for other services.
Having parents involved is an important aspect of CARE’s New Directions program. The three-week course, which requires both minors and their parents to attend, is designed to heighten awareness of chemical abuse for both parties.
“… We really need to see a shift in culture, where parents rally around drug and alcohol prevention for kids as opposed to thinking that their role is to prepare them for social drinking in adulthood,” Morgan said.
Both UPPD and HPPD work with HPISD through various programs, such as CARE, DARE, and the mock drunk driving accident program Shattered Dreams, which UPPD helped put on in 2006 and 2011.
“We highly prefer to do the education and prevention, and use enforcement as the last tool,” Koppa said. “I know the temptation is there, the peer pressure is there. Often, we can do prevention and education; it’s the piece of the enforcement that makes the difference in some cases.”