Every season of the year, it seems, comes with another alert for parents. But this public service announcement, as the first graduation parties begin, is significant.
One bad decision, by a teenage student or their parents, can ruin an otherwise joyous celebration.
Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman raised the red flag this week in a press release, not unlike the one his office, and many others, issued last year and the year before that. Redundant? Yes, but it bears repeating if it only enlightens one mom or dad.
Boiled down, Heldman’s plea is this: Celebrate the accomplishments of students, but do it responsibly.
You should know where this is going.
Every year, somewhere too close to home, underage drinking and the consequences associated with teen drinking have a dangerous and lasting impact on someone.
While drinking and driving is the most well-known consequence of teen drinking, alcohol is also a major factor in sexual assault, violence, property damage and injury accidents.
Sadly, many high school drinkers get their alcohol from an adult and sometimes those adults are parents or other family members.
Heldman said parents must help graduates and their friends remain safe by taking responsibility, getting involved and setting limits.
“To keep teenagers safe, parents, schools and law enforcement must work together to change the view that reckless teen partying is normal and OK if associated with graduation,” the sheriff said in the release.
Here are a few tips for parents to keep in mind:
• Clearly communicate expectations. Although you may have talked many times to your child about your expectations for healthy choices and the consequences of breaking the rules, graduation season is an important time to repeat these messages.
• Discuss the dangers of drinking and driving and riding in a car with a drunk driver. Parents who discuss possible scenarios and what to do in a dangerous situation increase the chances of their teen’s safe decision-making.
• Be awake when your teen comes home. A teen’s curfew should never exceed the parents’ ability to stay up. Tell your child you will be waiting up for them and you can’t wait to hear details about the party they attended.
• Do not serve or allow alcohol at any party you are hosting. An adult who provides alcohol to a minor is breaking the law and risking that teen’s life. If you host or allow a party at your house where alcohol is consumed by underage guests, you could be sued if any harm, injury, or death results from the alcohol consumption.
Heldman’s office will be doing its part to help protect the community. More deputies will be patrolling roads and neighborhoods during high-risk times during graduation season.
Others are encouraged to help, too. Anyone who sees or hears of an out-of-control party or suspects underage drinking should report it by calling the sheriff’s office at 419-422-2424.
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