Schools take action
Most schools warn students about the dangers of drinking at least once a year - typically before the prom. But some school principals are confronting the epidemic of teen drinking - acknowledging that kids are drinking throughout the year.
Peter Sack, a middle/high school principal in Manchester, Massachusetts, corresponds with parents through his popular Principal's Newsletter. In one issue he writes: "It appears to me that alcohol and perhaps marijuana use are not viewed as particularly significant problems. We have seen the adverse effects of chemical abuse by our students. It leads to poor grades - it leads to broken homes - it leads to death ... as a school we are concerned."
Sack asks parents to be more vigilant. "Parents need to know where their kids are and what they are doing," he writes. "There is a limit to what we can do and I know that you have your limits as well. I fear that one morning I will be attending the wake or funeral of one of my students. I pray that will never happen. Help me!"
A parents' meeting to address underage drinking is scheduled for this fall. Parents will receive Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol and screen Alcohol: True Stories hosted by Matt Damon. These materials review the many consequences of underage drinking and offer information and the words to help families have lifesaving conversations.
"It underscores the value of connections and communication with friends and family." Bobby Heard, National Director of Programs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving says of Alcohol: True Stories.
At Buckingham Browne and Nichols, a private school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Eric Benke, the former Director of the Upper school took action, too. He called parents to a mandatory meeting to address student drinking.
In a letter to parents Benke wrote: "I must call on you collectively to exert yourselves with great focus and rigor on this problem before we are visited by the fatal tragedy this behavior invites. We have been lucky, plain lucky, and that luck will run out. Our young people don't know or believe that, and that's where the adults come in.
Do not, please, tell me that you can do nothing. Demand to know where they are; verify their plans with other parents. Make sure they understand unequivocally that you do not approve of drinking and will not tolerate it. Tell them again that they can always rely on you for safe passage home if something gets out of hand or they are not safe."
Buckingham Brown and Nichols also mailed the Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol booklets to the home of each student. Benke knows that underage drinking is not a harmless rite of passage, but a potentially deadly choice.
"Remember, we are all in this together," he wrote. "I am angry about this behavior, but chilled by the knowledge that every weekend is probably a near-miss for a school tragedy ... I pray every day that we do not need to feel this pain first hand to understand what a terrible risk we are taking when we neglect this vital parental responsibility."
What is your school doing to reduce underage drinking? How is your community taking action to save lives? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your suggestions.
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