Submitted by Chief Robert Bongiorno, Bedford Police Department; Superintendent Jon Sills, Bedford School Department; and Sue Baldauf, Director of Bedford Youth and Family Services
Recently the Bedford Police have been called to several private homes on noise complaints only to find large gatherings of youth partying with alcohol and with no adult supervision. In at least one case, the parents were out of town. The Police have a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, with Bedford Public Schools, to share information related to student safety; and since these parties were examples of risk and concern, the schools were subsequently notified. The SRO and school administration addressed these incidents with high school families and students over the past few weeks.
Parents have expressed varying emotions to both the Police and the schools in response to this practice, but it is our belief that together – Police, Schools, and parents with our community organizations and neighbors and friends – we all raise our children. We need to be consistent together so as to prevent an unsafe situation and tragedy.
A teen’s immaturity and inability to handle pressures from peers can and sometimes does lead to risky situations with alcohol and other illegal substances, sexual behavior, and possibly violence. If parents are going to be away from home overnight and choose to leave a teenager at home, be sure to provide for adequate adult supervision for the teen. A parent can also sign the ”Away Book” at the Bedford Police Department. A police officer will monitor the home daily for unwanted or unsupervised parties. This process may take the pressure off a teenager if uninvited friends show up wanting to party because they heard a parent was out of town. Parents can explain the program to their teenager prior to their departure.
Please refer to the attached Safe Homes suggestions related to drug and alcohol facts and what parents should know before hosting a teen party or if their teen is planning to attend a party. For more information about the Away Book, call the Bedford Police Department at 781-275-1212. For Safe Homes or Substance Abuse Education contact Bedford Youth and Family Services at 781-275-7727. Please feel free to contact the Superintendent’s office at 781-275-7588 or your son or daughter’s respective school principal to clarify any school concerns.
Thank you for working together with us on protecting your teen.
Police Chief Robert Bongiorno
School Superintendent Jon Sills
Youth & Family Director Sue Baldauf
FACTS ABOUT ALCOHOL AND DRUGS*
Teens often expect alcohol and marijuana at parties. Some parents believe that it is better to allow teens to drink in their home so they can keep them safe. While this idea may be well intentioned, it is simply misguided. Parents cannot keep impaired teens safe.
Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment. Teens are more likely to have sex, be involved in a violent incident, or suffer an injury after using drugs or alcohol. All too frequently teens die from violence, unintentional injuries, or overdoses related to alcohol and other drugs.
Alcohol affects teens differently than adults. For example, compared with adults, teens are more likely to remain awake, to wander about, or to drive a car while having a much greater degree of mental impairment.
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW
Communication and honesty are important to keep your teen safe. Teens whose parents talk with them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 42% less likely to use substances than those whose parents don’t. Tell your teens that you expect them not to use alcohol or other drugs at parties.
Parent networking is the best prevention tool to combat underage drinking. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. If your teen is planning on going to a party, call the parents to ensure that they will be home and that they will not allow drugs or alcohol. If this is not possible, don’t let your teen go.
Parents are legally responsible for anything that happens to a minor who has been served alcohol or other drugs in their home. If anyone brings alcohol or other drugs to your home, be prepared to contact their parents. And if someone comes to your home already intoxicated, make sure that they get home safely. Help your teen feel responsible for this as well.
IF YOU ARE HOSTING A TEEN PARTY…*
Plan in Advance. Go over party plans with your teen. Encourage your teen to plan non-alcohol-related group activities or games.
Keep parties small. Ten to 15 teens for each adult. Make sure at least one adult is present at all times. Ask other parents to come over to help you if you need it.
Set a guest list. The party should be for invited guests only. No “crashers” allowed. This will help avoid the “open party” situation.
Set starting and ending times for the party.
Set party “rules” and your expectations. Discuss them with your teen before the party. Rules should include the following:
No tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
No one can leave the party and then return.
Lights are left on at all times.
Certain rooms of the house are off-limits.
Have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available. Also, put your alcohol and any prescription or over-the-counter medicines in a locked cabinet.
Be there, but not square. Pick out a spot where you can see what is going on without being in the way. You can also help serve snacks and beverages.
IF YOUR TEEN IS GOING TO A PARTY…
Know where your teen is going and how long he will be there. Have the phone number and address of the party. Ask your teen to call you if the location of the party changes. Be sure to let your teen know where you will be during the party.
Call the parent of the party host to make sure a parent will be home the entire time and supervising the party. Make sure that tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs will not be allowed.
Talk with your teen beforehand about how to handle a situation where alcohol is available at a party.
Make sure your teen has a way to get to and from the party. Make it easy for your teen to leave a party by making it clear that he can call at any time for a ride home. Discuss why he might need to make such a call. Remind your teen NEVER to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs.
Be up to greet your teen when he comes home. This can be a good way to check the time and talk about the evening.
If your teen is staying overnight at a friend’s house after the party, verify this arrangement with the friend’s parents and that they will be home.
* from A Parent’s Guide to Teen Parties by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010