NEWTOWN - "Stop Underage Drinking Week" kicks off tonight with
a community forum on alcohol and the law.
Police, politicians, parents and
students will learn about the array of laws that govern alcohol and teenagers.
, project director of the
Underage Drinking, will moderate.
Alcohol-fueled teen house parties - and
parents' responsibilities - are one of topics that will be discussed.
Week of events
"Stop Underage Drinking
Week" in Newtown runs through Sunday. Events include: "It's Only Beer . . .
Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol and the Law:"today from 7 p.m. to 9
p.m. in the
Newtown Middle School
auditorium "Making Healthy Choices Health
Fair:" Tuesday,from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at
Newtown High School
sixth-grade students will be writing letters to high school seniors expressing
concern for the older students' safety and urging them not to use alcohol or
drugs High school student peer educators from the "No Suds" group will
visit sixth and eighth grade classes to talk about avoiding alcohol and
drugs Live concert at the
Newtown Teen Center
, Church Hill Road Friday at 7
p.m. (open to Newtown Middle School students only)
Adults who allow underage drinking to take place at
parties held in their homes are subject to arrest, Najarian said.
who serves or provides alcohol to a minor other than their own child is guilty
of a felony in our state," Najarian said.
Parents who aren't present during
an underage alcohol party at their house can also get in trouble with the
"There have been cases where parents have been held accountable while
they were away for something called 'failure to provide adequate supervision,'"
Najarian said. "If parents haven't done their best to ensure that young people
are safe while they are away then they can be held responsible, sometimes
criminally and sometimes civilly," he said.
Parents also run the risk of
lawsuits if underage drinkers are injured while at the house party, or if teens
leave and crash a car because they're drunk.
Newtown has a local law that
levies a fine against adults who host underage alcohol parties on private
property, which can include fields, barns and back yards.
The rest of "Stop
Underage Drink Week" will be geared toward telling students they don't have to
drink or use drugs. Hence, the theme - "You Can Choose not to Use."
Allred, community coordinator with "No Suds," also known as the Newtown
Organization to Stop Underage Drinking Soon, said 60 percent of children between
ages 12 and 17 do not drink alcohol.
Students who start using drugs or
alcohol early may be setting themselves up for problems later on. Allred
provided information saying that adolescents can become addicted to alcohol much
more quickly than adults.
Allred said the remainder of the week will include
events that will raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking.
example, students entering the high school Tuesday will see a "chalk walk" as
they enter the school. Chalk outlines of bodies will illustrate people killed by
alcohol and drug use. Statistics will be written on the sidewalk detailing the
dangers of underage drinking.
Substance abuse among Newtown youth has been a
pressing issue in recent years.
A survey of 900 Newtown students in grades
seven through 12, conducted two years ago by the
University of Connecticut
Center School of Medicine
, found that drug and alcohol use increased
dramatically as students progressed into Newtown High School.
the survey found that 18.7 percent of seventh-grade students admitted drinking
alcohol. The percentage of students drinking shot to 29.3 percent by the eighth
"By the time students were seniors, 84.3 (percent) had experienced
using alcohol, 60.7 (percent) smoking cigarettes and 57.9 percent using
marijuana," the UConn report summarized.
It is a problem that isn't unique to
Newtown. According to the Hartford-based Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking,
Connecticut youth abuse alcohol more than the rest of the country.
Connecticut youth on average start drinking at 11 years old, two years
earlier than the national average, according to the coalition.
forum on alcohol and the law is sponsored by "No Suds" and the Newtown Parent
Featured speakers include Detective Sgt.
Newtown Police Department
, high school members of the "No Suds" task force,
First Selectman Herb Rosenthal, and several elected officials from the General
Assembly, including state Rep.
"Many of us throw up our
hands sometimes when it comes to underage drinking because the problem seems so
large," Najarian said. "It seems like there is not much we can do. Weeks like
this show us exactly the opposite."
or at (203) 426-3711.