Underage drinking forum in Westport: Parents can make a difference
Published 6:26 pm, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
A two-hour discussion Tuesday night on a dozen topics related to underage drinking led to the conclusion that parental communication can help reduce the chance that their children will experiment with alcohol, or at the very least may prevent them from engaging in dangerous binge drinking.
About 100 adults and 30 Staples High School students gathered at Bedford Middle School for a program, "Conversation in the Community on Underage Drinking." Organizer Jane Lewis, teen services librarian at the Westport Public Library, said such a forum was held last year in reaction to binge drinking at Staples' Homecoming last fall that sent five students to the hospital in ambulances and led to the arrest of two others for possession of alcohol.
"We wanted to be pro-active this year, not reactive," Lewis said. After opening remarks from Staples Principal John Dodig and Pamela Kelley, coordinator for positive directions, facilitator Nicholas Rudd encouraged parents and students to raise issues related to underage drinking. They came up with 12 including parental involvement and influence, consequences of getting caught drinking, peer pressure, self-esteem, code of conduct, parental enabling, and understanding the motivations behind teenage drinking.
Participants broke into groups to discuss each topic and all seemed to arrive at the same or similar conclusions, Lewis said.
"It almost seemed like every single group, no matter their topic, talked about parental communication, establishing expectations of their children's behavior and following through on consequences," Lewis said.
Students from the Teen Awareness Group, or TAG, will host a school assembly Thursday on responsible drinking in hopes last year's problem is not repeated.
"Our main purpose is to prevent drunk driving," said Avery Watterworth, captain of the Staples swim team and a TAG member.