With the recent Whitman party bust, the teen drinking controversy has spiraled into a major debate.
Many parents and most students believe that it is inevitable, that “all teens do it,” that the teenage years are simply an era of innocent experimentation. Others believe that teen drinking is completely unacceptable, and that parents, police, and the school should use stricter methods to halt what seems to be a drinking epidemic.
Many worry that drinking is more a social requirement than experimentation. Each Monday, we arrive at school amidst swirling rumors of the weekend’s wild parties and even wilder police busts. Stories of massive rages and police escapes entertain us at least once a month.
A parent interviewed by Tattler Extra , Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School's student newspaper, declared that “[w]e were told that 'everyone' drinks without exception and that it would create a situation of being a social outcast if [our daughter] didn’t drink at all.”
Parents seem to waver between wanting to allow kids to drink in a safe environment or absolutely forbidding alcohol.
“It's a Catch-22, really. If parents permit kids to drink in their homes ... those parents are strung up as villains, enabling underage drinkers. ... If kids are drinking unsupervised at house parties ... the kids are the villains for breaking the law and making their own bad choices,” observed North Potomac-Darnestown Patch editor Greg Cohen in summing up some of the more than 60 comments inspired by a recent Patch article on teen drinking.
Most students and parents opt for the latter scenario. Parents accept that their children will drink and subsequently turn a blind eye most Friday and Saturday nights.
Things, however, get messy when the police get involved.
It seems that the police are more interested in citing teenagers than catching criminals. Students have noticed that the ratio of police-raided to police-free parties is increasing at a disturbing rate.
Surprisingly, there aren’t large criminal consequences for underage drinking. It’s common knowledge that students found drinking illegally receive a citation, and their parents are notified. Still, teens aren’t arrested, nor are any colleges notified of their actions.
Parents who host an underage drinking party face massive consequences, including paying up to $500 per minor. This holds true even if the parents aren’t home while the party takes place.
If there is a major party, schools may suspend cited students from their respective sports teams for one or two games. Yet, this measure is merely symbolic.
What I find to be a worse problem is drunk driving.
Just last month, two B-CC alumni were killed in a drunk-driving accident on Jones Bridge Road.
“One of the biggest myths is that there are 'designated drivers' and that they take turns driving,” the B-CC parent interviewed by Tattler Extra said.
Although it may be an exaggeration to deem designated drivers a myth, there certainly are rumors about drivers with questionable alcohol levels. The most logical resolution would be for parents to drive their children. But it poses the ubiquitous question: By helping their children, are parents condoning their behavior?
There is no simple solution or explanation to teen drinking. But, we can make two basic conclusions. One, as Patch user Eric S. said in the comment section of the recent Patch article on teen drinking, is that “teens are going to drink. Period.”
The other is that current attempts (by the police, parents, schools) to stop teen drinking are ineffective.
How do you feel about teen drinking? What measures, if any, do you think the community should take to combat the problems associated with it?