My daughter started high school at our local public high. It’s a great high school. It’s got a beautiful facility, high quality staff, all the bells and whistles you can think of, an involved parent body, and a whole lot of very nice kids. I always knew all that, but I had that information reinforced when I attended my first PTA meeting.
I learned something else at the local PTA meeting: drug and alcohol use are “rampant” (their word, not mine) at this high school. By the time the kids are juniors and seniors, there’s a “culture” of abuse. It’s part of “the fabric” of the students’ social lives.
Part of the problem is the curse of affluence. The kids have the wherewithal to buy high quality fake IDs and the money to spend on drugs and alcohol. The other part of the problem is something that never occurred to me — parents. As I confirmed with some internet searching later, there’s a trend amongst parents to host pot and alcohol parties for their children. The theory behind these illegal parties is these parents’ belief that, if the drug and alcohol use is done under their aegis, they can keep it “safe” and “responsible.”
Plain common sense tells how wrong this attitude is. I confirmed my common sense by speaking with my daughter when she came home from school. I told her precisely what I’d learned, and warned about parties where parents offer alcohol. She said, “If we hadn’t talked about this, and some parent offered me a glass of wine, I would have thought it was okay and taken it.” It’s that simple. If authority figures say something is okay, then it must be.
Amazingly, Disney (Disney!) handles this issue of parental approval surprisingly well in 17 Again. The plot device is that a man is suddenly transformed into a 17 year old (played by Zac Efron), and finds himself in school with his own children, a boy who is being bullied, and a girl who is dating the bully. This scene is about condoms (and ignore the execrable Margaret Cho as the sex ed teacher), with Efron’s character watching in horror as a basket of condoms is handed to his own daughter:
Although the movie doesn’t come out and say so, I do believe that someone at the Disney studio disapproved of a high school teacher saying, “To hell with abstinence. You guys can just have condoms because we’re too weak to stop you from hurting and demeaning yourselves.”
But back to the drug issue. I also learned that, if my kids throw a wholesome party (a few vetted and trusted friends) and that party is crashed by drug/alcohol users, if those gatecrashers get into trouble after leaving my property, I’m still liable. (As a lawyer, I knew this; as a mother, I had refused to recognize it.) The way to short circuit liability is to call the police. The police representative at the school said kids should know this too, as these events often happen to hapless kids when their parents are away for an evening. The host kid should feel no compunction about placing a non-emergency call to the police, especially since our local police are extremely nice people.
I thought this was good advice, but I added my own warning to the kids: If any kid ever uses drugs or alcohol on my property, in the house or in the yard, I will rip that child’s head off and celebrate as I watch the blood splatter on the ceiling. The kids laughed, but I think they got the message.