It is springtime and the thoughts of our youth go to getting outside, stretching their growing limbs and where to get a 12 pack of PBR. Despite repetitive input about the dangers of underage alcohol use, announced increased surveillance by law enforcement officials and the risks to homeowners of hosting underage drinking parties, these incidents continue.
Last Saturday night, 58 youth under the legal drinking age of 21 were charged at a house party in Swampscott, an up-scale suburb north of Boston. An unnamed adult is also facing charges for allowing the event in the home. Swampscott school officials expressed concern that many of the arrested kids are students in their school system and, if participants in any of the school clubs, organizations or athletic teams, will face suspension from those activities due to the school’s policies.
Swampscott was in the news a few years ago as it implemented a new “chemical use” policy that included students other than athletes. The policy states that any students involved with the following faces potential penalties if found using illegal substances:
“EXTRA-CURRICULARS and SCHOOL SPONSORED EVENTS: (including but not limited to
clubs, band, student council, dances, proms, field trips, senior week events, graduation…) “
The policy was seen as controversial at the time as it mandated the participation of parents and included penalties for non-athletes, in addition to the usual MIAA rules that covered student athletes.
Preliminary results presented by school officials, of the first 18 months of the policy presented a very successful picture. In the three months of August through October of 2010, before the policy was implemented, there were 148 students who had chemical health violations in six incidents. That was 49.3 students per month. In the first 17 months the new policy was implemented from November 2010 to March 2012, only 40 students violated the policy in 10 incidents. That was 2.4 students per month.
Last year an underage drinking incident impacted the school’s varsity hockey team. This year it looks like the baseball team may feel the impact. It is unclear how many theatre, band and other school group kids were involved. These incidents in Swampscott and other communities impact the school, the families and the town in general. More work appears to be needed to address the challenge of underage alcohol and other drug use.
Before you decide to host a party for your underage teen there are several things to consider:
1. The social host liability law
M.G.L. Chapter 138 section 34
"whoever furnishes any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or both. For the purpose of this section the word “furnish” shall mean to knowingly or intentionally supply, give, or provide to or allow a person under 21 years of age except for the children and grandchildren of the person being charged to possess alcoholic beverages on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged."
2. The effects of alcohol on the teenage brain.