Editorlal by Greenville Daily Reflector, May 20, 2015.
Prom season for many high school seniors unfortunately carries a certain rite-of-passage mentality regarding alcohol consumption. The prevalence of prom participants adding alcohol to their special night sometimes causes adults to irresponsibly facilitate the illegal behavior using safety as a rationale.
This scenario was repeated in Pitt County last month when a rented party bus with the atmosphere of a rolling nightclub arrived for a prom at Rock Springs Center with 20 students. Several students involved in the April 24 incident were thought to be intoxicated when they exited the bus and school administrators merely sent the group away.
Adults at both ends of the party-bus route — those who rented the bus for the students and those who ordered the kids back on board without alerting their parents — mishandled this incident. Law enforcement officers working at the prom could have performed their duty after recognizing obvious underage drinking, but deferred all decisions in the matter to school officials.
Critiquing the handling of this situation is, of course, easier with the benefit of hindsight. Those charged with chaperoning any prom event, however, should have a solid and well-publicized plan for dealing with any incidence of underage drinking.
At a minimum, that plan must involve detaining the youths involved until they can be retrieved by an adult parent or guardian. Anything less is unacceptable and could have tragic consequences.
The dangers of underage drinking are not new, but they bear repeating when high school students known to be intoxicated are released to their own devices.
According to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Underage Drinking, alcohol use is a major cause of death from injuries among underage drinkers. Approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year as a result of drinking. That number includes about 1,900 highway deaths, 1,600 homicides, 300 suicides and hundreds from injuries or drowning.
The Surgeon General’s call to action also concludes that underage drinking: “Increases the risk of carrying out, or being a victim of, physical or sexual assault; can cause a range of physical consequences; and interferes with an adolescent’s ability to judge risk and make sound decisions.”
Some parents of children involved in the party-bus incident were outraged to learn of the underage drinking long after the fact. They should be outraged.
The consequences of underage drinking must include immediate intervention. When adults fail to administer that kind of tough love in the presence of underage drinking, the result is far more likely to be tragic. This community must do better by its youth.