News and Tribune

April 25, 2013

Parents who host alcohol parties for minors bear responsibility



With prom season gearing up, parents who host their high schooler’s keggers could face serious legal ramifications.

Parents Who Host Lose the Most, an organization in Floyd County to discourage parents’ promotion of underage drinking, held a press conference Wednesday morning to address the dangers and consequences of allowing minors to get drunk.

Keith Henderson, Floyd County prosecutor, said while parents think it’s more responsible if they monitor parties with drinking, it puts more on the shoulders of the parent.

“The message today that I want to send is that’s not OK,” Henderson said. “Not only is it dangerous for those that are there, not only is there a liability for the parents if someone leaves intoxicated and harms someone else or themselves, especially in a car, it’s illegal in the state of Indiana. That’s contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”

Parents who allow minors to drink on their property, even with permission and in the house, could face a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Parents can also face lawsuits from other parents if those drunk minors damage property or cause personal injury.

Barbara Bridgwater, community youth champion with Youth Count, said a survey conducted by her organization polled about 6,000 students in grades six through 12. She said one in four of those students had gone to a party where others were drinking. She said parents need to be positive role models in their children’s lives, even if they feel like it’s difficult to talk about drugs and alcohol if the parents have done them in the past.

“We need to step up as a community, as families, and say we’ve got to be careful with our parties,” Bridgwater said. “Don’t host these parties where kids are drinking because they need us to be role models. We can’t live in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ society.”

MeriBeth Wolf, executive director of Our Place Drug and Alcohol Education Services, said Floyd County tends to go higher than the state average with underage and binge drinking. She also said the state tends to be higher in those rates than the rest of the country.

She said parents who want to set an example don’t have to cut alcohol out completely themselves, they just have to demonstrate responsible drinking.

“It’s not all-or-nothing; moderation at dinner is modeling proper use,” Wolf said. “Research tell us parents need to have that conversation with their kids, [and] not [just] one time.”

Wolf said conversations about drugs, alcohol and sex are important to have with minors.

Bridgwater said just because parents have lived through experiences with drugs and alcohol shouldn’t keep them from talking about those subjects. She said it can actually help teenagers see what parents learned from their mistakes.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to share the things you know because you experienced it,” Bridgwater said. “But if you’ve built an open, trusting relationship with [your] kids, then you’re able to say that. If we’re sharing with our children, ‘This is why I don’t want you to do it,’ ... that helps.”

Louis Jensen, director of high schools for New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said there are other ways to promote healthy activities for students after prom and other special events, but drinking doesn’t need to be a part of that picture.

“Parents need to understand that they are responsible for more than they realize by trying to be friends of their kids by hosting these kinds of parties and just taking the keys,” Jensen said. “If those kids want to leave, they will.”