October 4, 2011
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Parental involvement is key to discouraging underage drinking, several participants in a panel discussion said Monday during the Piedmont Alcohol Awareness Conference.
Combating underage drinking “depends on the family,” said Amy Scott, director of student services with Henry County Schools. She added that about 60 percent of the parents who are summoned for their child’s disciplinary hearing resist due to a lack of knowledge or denial of the behavior.
They also must set good examples for their children, the panelists said. Parents should “understand that it’s hard to tell a child to not do what they’re doing,” said Henry County Sherriff Lane Perry.
"Adults play a major role in this," agreed Jospeh Cannon, special agent in charge with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Joining Cannon, Perry, and Scott at the event, held at the Dutch Inn, were Bonnie Favero, Piedmont Community Services prevention manager, Dr. Gordon Green, director of the West Piedmont Health District of the Virginia Department of Health; and Brooke Mason, a Martinsville High School student and member of CHILL (Communities Helping Improve Local Lives), a group that works to educate youth about the dangers of drinking and drug abuse.
Officer Jermaine Galloway, who has been an Idaho law enforcement officer since 1997 and has more than seven years’ experience in youth alcohol and drug education and enforcement, was the moderator.
According to a state law, parents are allowed to provide children alcohol “in their homes only,” Cannon said, but parents need to understand “what happens after the fact.”
If a child starts drinking before the age of 13, there is a greater chance that he or she will become chemically dependent on alcohol than those who wait until they are 21 to begin drinking, Cannon said.
It’s important for parents to “talk early and talk often” and be informative instead of being judgmental, Green said, adding that the foundation for everything else is to promote the child’s self-esteem.
Many parents and other adults try to discourage children from drinking by using scare tactics such as images of dead bodies in alcohol-related car crashes, but “scare tactics don’t work,” Galloway said.
Instead, a parent must give a child tools to exit a situation if he or she is offered alcohol or drugs. Galloway mentioned that he told his sixth-grade son that he was going to drug-test him often to ensure that he would remain clean. Therefore, his son’s tool to get out of peer pressure would be, “I can’t because my dad tests me,” Galloway said.
Mason offered a youth’s perspective and expressed frustration at seeing students bringing water bottles to school filled with vodka or drinking and smoking on school property. However, she said the school system is cracking down, and those students are getting caught.
Scott shared the county school system’s policy on dealing with children abusing alcohol on campus. If a child is caught with alcohol on campus, the student will receive a minimum of 10 days of suspension, a disciplinary hearing and a possible expulsion if the student is caught distributing alcohol on campus, she said.
At the end of the conference, participants worked together on strategies to combat underage drinking (see box above).
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