Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Underage drinking in Seattle parks

Last week, the Garfield High School principal sent a message to parents that started like this:

Do you know where your son or daughter is at tonight? I spent the afternoon with Officer Radford and many other officers walking through the Arboretum. One hundred or more Garfield students were participating in hazing incidents, drinking hard alcohol and beer.

Underage drinking in our city's parks is not unique to the Arboretum and Garfield High School.  As the video posted to the Prevention WINS website homepage illustrates, it is not unusual for large numbers of north end high school students to congregate at Golden Gardens and Magnuson Park and drink.

Since this incident is gaining quite a bit of media attention, I hope our community can emerge from it with a few lessons learned.  One of them being that underage drinking is preventable.

Parents have a role to play
In his message to parents, the Garfield High School principal asks: As I email you tonight I asked the question do you know where your son or daughter is at? I ask that question because I want you to know that we all have a responsibility to keep our kids safe.  

Knowing where your child is and with whom is one important step parents can take to prevent underage drinking.  Setting consequences for not telling the truth about where they are is essential.  Following up on consequences if rules are broken is equally important.

Community members have a role to play
When teens are drinking in pubic places, they are bound to be seen by adults.  Community members should call 9-1-1 and report underage drinking and marijuana use.  Adults shouldn't attempt to break up large teen gatherings where drinking and drug use is taking place, but calling police is important for breaking up parties and preventing future parties.

Local institutions have a role to play
Seattle Police can break up underage drinking parties in parks.  Seattle policy makers and leaders can support police efforts by allocating funding for emphasis patrols in parks Friday and Saturday evenings.  The juvenile justice system can make sure minors who are referred to them for minor in possession violations go to alcohol education or are referred to substance abuse treatment, if needed.

These are just a few examples of what can be done to prevent teen drug use.  Underage drinking and drug use is a community problem and every community member has a role to play.

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