Parents and Students Collaborate for Community Conversation on Teen Drinking

Nicolette Weinbaum ’12
Staff Writer

One of the topics discussed was how parents must take a parental role when it comes to teen drinking, rather than being a friend. |Photo dramatization by Lucas Hammerman '10

A community discussion on underage drinking was held on Oct. 26 in the Bedford Middle School cafeteria. The attendees included Principal John Dodig, Outreach Counselor Chris Lemone, TAG members, and parents of Staples with a common concern of the underage-drinking problem amongst Westport teenagers.

The theme of the discussion was “who is responsible” for the teen drinking problem in Westport. As many parents gave their insight as to who was responsible, many of the teenagers who spoke up during the discussion emphasized that parents are as equally to blame as students.

According to many parents, a lot of progress was made by having teenagers present to give their personal views on the matter. TAG members and parents were able to collaborate by coming up with discussion topics for the problems with teen drinking.

Topics included: how to prevent teen alcohol consumption, healthy alternative activities, consequences to be enforced after teens are caught drinking, blind trust, peer pressure, and strategies for parents to better connect with their teenagers.

Dodig said the community discussion was an accomplishment, and that members of the student body who attended made a strong impact on the adults.

“It was absolutely successful. About 100 parents and Westport citizens got to see students basically say, ‘You’ve got to be parents, we don’t need friends,’ and if everyone there took that to heart, I think half the problems that we face will be resolved,” Dodig said.

Because the outcome of last year’s Homecoming football game, at which many students were sent to the hospital due to alcohol poisoning, the attendees expressed a need for a positive and sober Homecoming game this year.

Caela McCann ’11, president of TAG, said that the movie Haze, which students will view before homecoming weekend, will present a frightening image in students’ minds about the dangers of binge drinking.

“I think that after the movie Haze, students will realize that a lot of their actions have consequences, and to create a better community for themselves and others, they need to better reflect upon how they are acting outside of school,” McCann said.

McCann also said that a strong influence of the teenage drinking problem is coming from parents.

“I think it’s really important [for parents] to examine themselves as parental figures and not friends,” McCann said.

Beth Cody, parent of a Staples student, says information she learned tonight from TAG members left her shocked.

“I was appalled to find out tonight from the TAG members that there are parents that actually indulge in the teen parties and play drinking games with them. That has to stop,” Cody said. “There is a feeling among some parents that kids are going to drink anyways so they might as well supply it at their own houses. It gives me fear thinking that my kid is engaging in parties where parents are there and I don’t know what’s going on.”

The meeting concluded with presentations of over a dozen new strategies as a reminder to parents, and to kids, that underage drinking is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with.