Saturday, May 19, 2007

Parents obstruct efforts to prevent teen drinking at dance

Alcohol and underage drinking at school dances has plagued school administrators for decades.

Many schools have wisely begun working with their police liaison officers to combat underage drinking, including the use of Breathalyzer tests at proms.

At a recent prom, Breathalyzer tests confirmed that several Waterford School students were legally drunk.

Now, in an outrageous response, the parents of these children are upset at the school because they weren't warned in advance that their Junior-aged students might be asked to take Breathalyzer tests. Of course, the ACLU is right there to "help".

Shouldn't these parents be upset with their kids?

Here's the article that covers the flap:

Oakland Press: Two students busted at prom; parents cry foul (05/16/07)

Our society is struggling to cope with teenage drinking that is nothing short of a crisis, and schools are at ground zero of the battle. But rather than helping the schools to help these children, we've got parents teaching their children how to play the legal system. They’re trying to teach valuable lessons about searching for legal loopholes rather than accepting responsibility for their actions.

There are an increasing number of cool, hip parents that draw a fine line, suggesting that teenage drinking is OK as long as these teens aren’t driving. They allow alcohol at “supervised” parties. Binge drinking on spring break trips is permissible. In fact, school officials are criticized for attempting to prevent it!

“Hey, we did it as kids and we survived.”

This is so backwards. Parents need to be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.

The good news is that most of the follow-up comments in this
Oakland Press community “Sound-Off” section seem to suggest that the community is behind the school.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Mike. Coincidentally, the May 17 Rochester Post also ran this: "New Student Survey Reveals 'Alarming' Alcohol Use" on the topic of underage alcohol use in our own commmunity:

And by the way, THANK YOU for going the extra 10,000 miles as Rochester's BEST school board member BY FAR!

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

you link didn't work, but I search and found the article. Mike: you should post a blog entry on this:

Rochester Post (MI)

New student survey reveals 'alarming' alcohol use
Published: May 17, 2007
ROCHESTER The HILLS - Rochester/ Auburn Hills Community Coalition held a town hall meeting Tuesday, May 8, to discuss and raise awareness about underage drinking.

A total of 1,967 students in grades six, eight and 10 in the Avondale and Rochester Community school districts completed the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth survey in November 2006, developed by the Michigan Department of Education to monitor students' health risks and behaviors in several categories, including unintentional injury and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, dietary behaviors and physical activity.

According to Kathleen Zimmerman- Oster, coalition evaluator, the results for alcohol use were alarming.

The results are in

New national data shows that approximately 29 percent of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 20 have used alcohol. By the time they reach eighth-grade, 41 percent reported having had at least one drink, and almost 20 percent report having been "drunk."

Even though between 43.3 percent and 54.6 percent of students in each grade level said having five or more alcoholic drinks once or twice

each weekend could pose a "great risk" and the majority - more than 75 percent - said their parents disapprove of drinking alcohol regularly, 41.5 percent had admitted to using alcohol within the last 30 days. That number is compared to 16.4 percent using cigarettes and 14.4 smoking marijuana.

"You can see the bars on the alcohol slide are much higher (than smoking cigarettes or marijuana)," Zimmerman-Oster said. "It's starting to be an accountable number."

Problem lies in availability

Part of the problem is availability, Zimmerman-Oster added; 68.1 percent of the 640 10th-grade students surveyed said they could "sort of easily" or "very easily" obtain alcohol. About 49 percent of students in eighth-grade and 14 percent in sixth-grade reported the same thing.

"Most kids say they don't do it, but if they want to, they know where to get it," Zimmerman-Oster said.

While the Rochester Police Department is seeing less smoking among students, they are having more problems with alcohol, officer Mark Woliung said.

As an RCS police-school liaison, he recently addressed a case in which a student was caught shoplifting five fifths of hard liquor, he said.

"The problems that are there, we need to make community problems," Woliung added. "The schools can't handle everything. The Police Department can't handle everything."

Oakland County Sheriff 's Deputy PJ Reynolds, a school liaison for kindergarten through eighthgrade, begins talking to children in the fourth-grade. He said it's amazing that by eighth-grade they may be consuming their first shot of liquor.

"When they hit that eighthgrade mark, it really comes to life. I think young people today feel that part of that passage into womanhood or manhood is to take a drink, take a drug or smoke a joint," Reynolds added.

Many underage students are able to obtain alcohol from their parents or friends. Some ask a person of legal age to purchase it for them, Doreen Olko, Auburn Hills police chief, said.

"There are still students who do the old thing and find someone in the parking lot to buy for them," Olko said. "It's a very common thing still to this day."

The problem with starting to drink young, said Bob Wood, program manager for St. Eastwood Clinic in Rochester Hills, is it creates a higher risk of dependence.

Forty percent of St. Eastwood Clinic's patients come in with alcohol problems, and last year, about 11 percent of those were under the age of 25.

"What it amounts to is that people are starting to drink young," Wood said. "Data pretty much says that if a young person has a drink by age 13, they have a 55 percent chance of becoming an alcoholic."


Many people wonder why the court is so harsh on underage drinking, said Nancy Tolwin Carniak, 52- 3 District Court judge. It isn't to give youth a criminal record, she reassured.

"The reason we take this so seriously is we really value our youth. We want them to be successful and do the things we know they're capable of," Carniak said.

"The court doesn't consider it punishment. We consider it being proactive. We're trying to make sure … they'll learn from this," she added.

After an evaluation, violators often pay fines and/or perform community service for a first offense. Penalties become a stiffer after that, and may include jail time.

"Sometimes for those high-risk individuals we believe we are doing a service by showing them the inside of a jail cell, so they know what it could be like," Carniak said.

"In the police liaison program, we tell them the consequences," Woliung said. "They want to know the facts. But a lot of them don't think it's going to happen to them. That's a tough nut to crack."

How to fix the problem

While the coalition continues to sponsors activities and groups for youth, such as Youth Dialogue Day, Club PRIDE and the Ashleigh Iserman Community Involvement Scholarship, the real question is how to reach the whole community.

"A lot of times we end up preaching to the choir," Reynolds said. "A lot of times we just don't have access to the parents who need the education.

"Many don't want to know their kids are intoxicated or they got the alcohol from their liquor cabinet," he added.

Mary Kopchick, coalition community organizer, offered suggestions.

"We need to continually increase our involvement in all sectors. We can't just work with parents. We can't just work with police," Kopchick said. "We don't want to focus on the 5 percent who do use in order to tell kids not everyone is doing it," she added. "It's not so much wagging the finger at kids. It's more like positive enforcement."

Wood offered encouragement to parents.

"We've grown up drinkers and seeing others drink, so when we're trying to tell our children to do something different, that's going to be really hard," Wood said. "In order to talk to our children about drinking, we need to look at our own."

Olko said the police forces will be vigilant - enforcing zero tolerance rules, notifying hotels and motels of school activities, and continuing the campaign Parents Who Host Lost the Most, as well as supporting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, court in schools and mock trials. Putting the results into action

Nothing catastrophic was revealed through the study, coalition President Cyndi Pettit said. Rochester-area numbers were pretty typical of other communities in the area, she added.

"But something that really jumped out at us was the accessibility and availability of alcohol," Pettit said. "That's something as a coalition we have to start tackling … make it not socially acceptable to be drunk in public and to not host parties."

For more information, contact Brenda Horcha at (248) 802-9044 or e-mail

You can reach Jennifer McDonald at or at (586) 279-1112.


From left, St. Eastwood Clinic's Bob Wood, 52-3rd District Court Judge Nancy Tolwin Carniak, Rochester/Auburn Hills Community Coalition Evaluator Kathleen Zimmerman-Oster, Oakland County Sheriff's Deputy PJ Reynolds, Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko and Rochester Community Police-School liaison officer Mark Woliung attended the town hall meeting Tuesday, May 8.

Photo by Jennifer S. McDonald

Copyright, 2007, Rochester Post (MI), All Rights Reserved

Anonymous said...

When my neighbor looked the other way as his kid and friends took beer from a cooler during a graduation party, what do we expect?

When I asked him about it he replied. "What beer".

Anonymous said...

Dear "What beer's" neighbor,

Peer pressure to be cool, party parents is an epidemic that starts right around spring break in these parts.

You're right. What do we expect?

Pity the kids and pass the breathalyzer.

Mecca, Turning Winds said...

Oh no, situations like these saddens me. I can't believe there are parents who are too blind to accept the fact that by allowing their teens to drink alcohol, they're putting their kid's future in jeopardy. I agree that this type of parenting is really twisted. How would their children learn from their mistakes if parents are too lenient to accept this type of behavior for their kids.
Do we need to wait for something dangerous to happen to these kids before we realize that we're wrong? Geez!