High School Daze

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.


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  • suek

    I think another factor is that it is _your_ house – not the kids’ – and _you_ are the hostess, not your son or daughter – although they may be a major component in the preparation, and while you might make yourselves _somewhat_ unobtrusive, you _will_ be present, circulating and observing, and there _will_ be an end to the party at xx hour. Additionally, any guest(s) who appears to be behaving unacceptably _will_ be asked to leave (or parents will be asked to pick up, as appropriate) and there will be _no_ party crashers allowed – even if police do have to be called.

    In other words – you are a responsible parent, and over time will communicate to your kids just exactly what a responsible parent _does_. And…if they go to a party at some other young person’s home (_parent’s_ home), you expect that parent also to behave responsibly – and expect _your_ children to be very aware if the parent does _not_ behave responsibly.

    Bad stuff can happen when parents abdicate their responsibility to their children.

    Not that any of this is different from anything I expect you’d do – the only problem is getting the concepts across to your children, who may be led to think otherwise by _other_ people’s children!

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar


    Real debate on evolution. Not a Leftist “consensus” argument.

      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.

    *shakes head* Where are you picking this stuff up, Book.

     One thing I noticed in Japan is that they never show big parties at parents’ homes. And often times the parents of Japanese children, work overseas, so often times teenagers are living alone. Or are living alone using their parent’s weekly allowance to rent an apartment, while in high school. (If you think of Japanese high school as American colleges, things will gel) I’m sure it may happen, but usually such parties happen at select host clubs or commercial karaoke bars where the drinks are part of the service. Something of a cultural shock, that normally people would have missed, until they remembered that in American culture teenagers are pushed to have parties when the parents are away. With concurrent damage to the house and trash cleanup. In Japan it is accepted custom to use commercial enterprises for entertainment, whereas such party entertainment in America is considered “private” and not allowed on public restaurants or what not. The closest analog would be VIP club rooms at certain bars and nightclubs.

    Kids are still mostly followers. They obey power, authority, and peer pressure. Thus they aren’t at the point where they can make independent judgments. So a party staffed by the authorities, would be good for independent decision making on alcohol and drugs, if the party attendees had the functional capability to make such judgments. Thus the role of adults is to provide leadership and set an example by doing, not talking.

    Leadership is, alas, not something exactly taught in public ed. It’s more like an on the job training, military byproduct, or personal charisma.


  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    What the Japanese did, which is very strange for such a hierarchical culture, was to institute student councils and distributed network enforcers of the rules. Thus every class has a class representative and they, from all grade levels, meet with the Student Council President. So basically the Council President has a spy and an enforcer in every classroom, and every class is “static’ and thus can be cataloged, with “profiles” on every student and their behavior. Or misbehavior.

    Such things, combined with the infamous Japanese societal punishment deterrence, makes for a normally orderly place. At least for private academies and those that are designed to feed into universities and colleges.  The drug use or violence is mostly confined to lower tier technical schools that do not have a university track. It’s mostly a socio-economic difference in area. Oakland vs Marin for example.

    That kind of support system, though, just speaking from a spymaster or security perspective, is very nice to have if you have a Council President that is willing and able to use it to enforce the school rules. And since the Council President is backed by the adults, you have a very strong alliance that can put enormous pressure on any single student or clique of students that want to use drugs or act out.


  • kulitone

    I let my son attend one of these parties (fully knowing what goes on there) and with specific guidance to stay away from drugs and alcohol and true to form, the police show up, arrest the hosting adults, disperse the kids and quash a generally ugly scene.  My son, being a good kid and never having given us any real problems, sees what these parties are about and has no desire to go to a scene where he knows that drugs, alcohol, and the police will intersect.  A real blessing.  In some way these more affluent communities are more problematic with this stuff.  Too much money and privilege and cops not wanting to upset the status quo.

  • http://phillips.blog.com phillips1938

    So there has been no change at Tam High in the past 45 years?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Phillips1938:  Pretty much.  I went to a high school in San Francisco back in the late 1970s, it was slightly more straight laced.  The kids who drank and did drugs were considered weird.  Now, it’s de riguer.  BTW, Tam’s blight has spread to other schools, as my daughter goes to a school in the Tam District, but not Tam itself.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    These affluent communities are full of spoiled kids riding around looking for trouble. The poor ride around their neighborhood and fight it out. The rich have the money and freedom to go farther.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Basically, they need to hire a qualified bouncer for these parties and throw troublemakers out. If you don’t have security, don’t be surprised when the barbarians start looting your house and raping the female residents.