A timely message from the Underage Substance Abuse Coalition

Dear Parents:

The end of another school year signals the beginning of excitement and great anticipation for our juniors and seniors at Sleepy Eye and St. Mary’s High Schools. For seniors it means that prom, graduation and year-end parties are just around the corner. For juniors, there is the realization that finally next year will be their year. These are memorable times for students, and we are committed to making this chapter of their lives as safe as possible. In this important mission, it is critical that we have the full participation and support of parents. Working together with students, parents, and community members, we will be doing everything possible to encourage our students to enjoy and celebrate the end of this school year safely and responsibly—without the use of alcohol or other drugs. We need every parent to take a few minutes to sit down with their student(s) and openly discuss the dangers associated with illegal underage drinking and drug use.

Our students must understand that alcohol-related crashes remain a leading cause of death in this country, especially for teens. The use of alcohol is frequently coupled with risky and potentially destructive behaviors, such as physical and emotional violence, sexual mistakes or misjudgments, unintentional injuries (drownings and falls), and, of course, alcohol overdose. They must also understand that teens die every year from alcohol poisoning. We need parents to continue to set clear and realistic expectations regarding underage drinking: it is dangerous, it is against the law, and it should not take place. Heavy drinking is especially dangerous for teenagers, whose brains are still developing, and alcohol-related damage incurred at a young age can have long-term effects. Many people believe that underage drinking is an inevitable “rite of passage” that adolescents can easily recover from because their bodies are more resilient, but the opposite is true. The increased popularity of house parties where alcoholic beverages are served to minors raises increased concerns for school officials, law enforcement officials, and concerned parents. Studies show that the major source of alcohol for youth is through friends and families. Please remember that, as a parent, you cannot give alcohol to your child’s friends who are under the age of 21 under any circumstances, even in your own residence, even with their parents’ permission. You may also be held responsible if underage drinking occurs at your house.

It can be daunting to talk with children about drinking and drug use, but it is well worth the effort parents put into it. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations. “Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people, and parents can make a difference,” said Andrew Pucher, President and CEO of NCADD. “The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child connect the dots and make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

The bottom line is that we all need to openly and clearly express our disapproval of underage drinking, drug use, and impaired driving. Together we can work to safeguard these exciting times and make them truly memorable for our students.