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Responsible parenting does not include promoting teenage drinking

In the Saturday, Dec. 3 edition of The Port Arthur News, reporter David Ball published a story focusing on parents who throw teen house parties and allow alcohol consumption. In the story, the South East Texas Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse (SETCADA) presented to Port Arthur City Council a proposed social hosting accountability ordinance that would hold adults accountable for providing a location where underage drinking would be permitted.

We all know this happens. In fact, some of us may even know adults and/or parents who allow this type of behavior to go on in their home while they are present.

The law plainly states that people must be at least 21 years of age to legally consume alcoholic beverages in Texas. It also says in Texas, a minor may consume an alcoholic beverage if it is in the visible presence of the minor’s adult parent, guardian or spouse.

Adults who throw these types of parties seemingly convince themselves that having a place for juveniles to come to is safer in the long run. But that’s simply a copout to their ultimate responsibility of being a parent — to protect their children at all costs.

Although it is OK to legally allow your own child to consume alcohol in your presence, it might be interesting to ask the parents of the other kids if they are OK with their child doing so under your supervision.

I am of the opinion that those who are OK with underage drinking in one’s home do not consider the following.

1. A minor under the age of 18 has not reached the maturity level to completely understand the limits. Thinking it’s OK to drink openly with friends at home, may cloud the fact it is not OK to do so anywhere else, thus taking a perceived/learned freedom further and further.

2. What happens once these juveniles leave the house? Are the adults simply not responsible anymore? If they are to be, how can they?

3. Allowing this opportunity to drink openly with others can corrupt a child and ensure they have behavioral and/or substance abuse problems later in life.

4. And it teaches juveniles that following the law is a personal decision, not a mandatory one.

The argument can be — and has been — made that local government should err on the side of caution when dealing with civil liberties in one’s household. That might be the case with one’s immediate family. But when it comes to the betterment of a larger group of kids who do not reside in a specific household but simply are there for freedoms (or irresponsible actions) granted, that is a completely different story.

Just last year a Florida teenager died while attending a supervised party. It was late; the supervising parent, who had also been drinking, went to bed as the party continued. The teenager apparently drank more than his body could handle. He passed out in the living room. Other teenagers didn’t think much of it as they had seen friends pass out at parties before. They moved their party mate to one of the bedrooms and left him to sleep it off. The next morning the adult supervisor of the party awoke to find the young teenager dead.

I know this is pretty extreme, but this incident was only one of 12 I found while conducting a quick Google search of the Internet. You might say this parent is not responsible enough to be supervising a party. And you’d be right. But how do we separate those adults who may be highly responsible to those that are not? We can’t.

And if 100% of all adults are not responsible enough to supervise, how can we allow juveniles to even potentially be a part of that? Again, we can’t.

A city ordinance is the only way to deter this type of behavior. No, it will not stop them all. You will still have those who feel it is their right to do as they wish in their own home. But even if we prevent half from doing so, have we not succeeded in protecting our youth? And ultimately, isn’t that what is most important?

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News. Contact him at rich.macke@panews.com.