By Teri Buhl
Should Fairfield County Parents take more Action to Stop Underage Drinking?
By Teri Buhl
Early this year Greenwich Magazine named Fairfield County the number ONE underage drinking capital in America. Surprised? New Canaan, CT was named the number two city in the state for underage high school drinking. It’s an issue often gossiped about at dinner parties after a teenager gets alcohol poisoning or a friend’s daughter get taken advantage of by a boy – but a subject often investigated in the local media. The State even passed a law a few years ago giving local cops the right charge Parents who know underage drinking is going on in their home, allow their kids to host drinking parties, or supply alcohol for a party and then leave, with fines from a misdemeanor to a felony. Yet few families in the towns of Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan (who I’ve been polling) have ever been charged since the law took effect.
Over a year ago I started to get complaints about a few Wall Streeters I’ve covered in my finance reporting, allowing their kids to host drinking parties. I started to track the cases where local high school students were boasting about their drinking on their Facebook or MySpace pages and their parents were visible witnesses. I was even able to document a few case where parents filed police reports about missing property during one of these parties, but the local cops did not pursue or charge the parent with allowing the party to happen in the first place . An outgoing Patch editor let me know they’ve also been getting the similar complaints and watched the cops in their town refuse to enforce the law even though they had clear evidence of its violation. It’s an investigation that’s sensitive and I’m often surprised at parents who will complain about this issue but get a shy look on their face when I ask them to go on the record to talk about another parent or their neighbors’ involvement in underage drinking.
I grew up in a zero tolerance home in Southern California and came up with all kinds of creative ways to hide my partying for my eagle eye mother. I can’t imagine what could have happen if there were not strict boundaries set for me. But even then we didn’t have laws telling my parents they couldn’t let me drink at home and have friends over so they could monitor it. In New Canaan, they’ve recently raised private funds to host 8-week classes for parents on why they shouldn’t allow underage drinking and how they can effect change in their community to get other parents to stop it.
But I have to wonder if the State has gone too far in setting up laws that tell parents how to parent on issue like teen drinking. I’m still working on this story and would love to hear from parents who read this blog if you have stories about other adults turning a blind eye to underage drinking or if you think the current laws that can charge adults for their kids’ actions are just unnecessary. All conversations will be kept confidential unless you choose to speak out. You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org