STA becomes proactive about underage drinking
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STA becomes proactive about underage drinking

STA Becomes Proactive About Underage Drinking

By Bridgette Bonner

Hammond Daily Star

Friday, September 28, 2012

STA is taking a proactive approach to dealing with underage drinking and distribution of alcohol to minors, said STA Director of Advancement Michelle Chauvin.

The problem is parishwide, not just at one school, Bailey said.

At St. Thomas, administrators take a pastoral approach to dealing with students’ harmful decisions, Stoulig said.

“We want to make sure we are taking the item as it is and not having a one-sided approach to it,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as a school and yours as a parent to get involved.”

Drug testing will begin soon at St. Thomas, Stoulig added, not to victimize any students but to pinpoint those who need help.

Part of being proactive is getting past the invincible mentality, Manale said.

Within Tangipahoa Parish, 72 percent of high school seniors reported having had an alcoholic drink. Sixty-five percent of 10th-graders, 49 percent of eighth-graders and 23 percent of sixth-graders reported the same, Bailey said. The statistics reveal the average age a child starts drinking is 12.

The minors are getting alcohol from their parents’ homes, chaperoned and unchaperoned parties and people of legal age buying it for them.

“Brain activity is highly impacted for those who start drinking before age 15,” Bailey said. “They are five times more likely to have alcohol dependency as adults.”

The mentality some parents take, Manale said, is that underage drinking is okay if the child is at home with the parent’s supervision.

“Those are the children who are more likely to drink in higher volumes because children mimic their parents’ decisions,” Manale said.

Bailey added that children have a tendency to generalize and think that if their parents allow them to drink at home, they must also be allowed to drink elsewhere.

Getting to the legalities of underage drinking, Manale said parents are allowed to let their children drink at home under parental supervision. They are not allowed to let their children drink in other places, or to provide other children alcohol.

Liability is also something homeowners should take into consideration, Manale said, because if there is illegal activity going on in the home, a homeowners policy is null and void. If a homeowner serves alcohol to someone underage and that underage person gets hurt or hurts someone else, the homeowner is liable.

People under 21 are considered impaired while driving at a blood alcohol content of .02 percent, Manale said, compared to the .08 percent level for people over 21. Refusal to take an impairment test results in an automatic one-year license suspension.

“Field sobriety tests are a divided attention analysis,” Manale said. “We use a horizontal gaze, one-leg stand and a walk and turn to see how they divide their attention.”

To demonstrate how the sobriety test is usually performed, Manale asked STA freshman Vinnie Rusciano and audience member Lloyd Spring to put on “drunk goggles” and take nine steps forward, high-five each other and count.

“This is crazy,” Spring said as he tried to walk heel-to-toe. “There’s no way.”

Rusciano didn’t have as hard of a time making a semi-straight line, but he still staggered.

“Every person is affected differently,” Manale said.

Consequences can carry past an arrest, Manale said.

“It can cost your child scholarships, college admission, job opportunities,” he said. “People will judge your child before they meet him.”

Judge Blair Edwards took center stage and shared an emotional recount of how drunk driving has affected her family.

“My son’s best friend since he was 3 years old was hit by a drunk driver in 2010,” she said. “He’s still in a wheelchair, not because he can’t walk, because he is brain damaged.”

Edwards began tearing up as she mentioned the wreck, and said it has changed her entire family.

“In Louisiana, we are so lax on alcohol,” she said. “There are ice chests at babies’ birthday parties. Kids see that and they develop from learning what they see.”

She encouraged the group of parents to be accountable for their actions and their children.

“Everybody wants to be their child’s best friend,” she said. “That’s a great goal, but it doesn’t work when they’re still children. You want that when they’re adults. It’s a bad sign that there are permissible things happening in a household when a child is best friends with the parent.”

Edwards related to the parents by saying she has high school children who think she’s obsessive about knowing their whereabouts.

“If I’m going to preach to other parents, I need to live it,” she said. “I don’t care if my child misses a party. I care that he’s alive for me to hold him. Love your child enough to preserve his life.”

A visibly touched crowd applauded Edwards as she took her seat with the other panelists, and panelists reiterated the importance of setting examples for children.
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