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Hingham police, schools host meeting tonight on underage drinking

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 27, 2012 03:04 PM

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Hingham police and school officials are hoping to deter adults from hosting underage drinking parties, after surveys showed that many teens had been to homes were alcohol was served with parental permission.

Alcohol use has been a longstanding problem in the underage community in Hingham. However, recent youth surveys conducted through the school showed that many students have been to house parties with parents and alcohol present.

School officials and police are hoping the reduce this behavior with a new “Be a Parent, Not a Pal” program, which seeks to educate parents on the consequences of hosting underage drinking parties.

The campaign kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hingham High School auditorium, in an event hosted by the Hingham High PTO and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

“This is something new with the efforts of the Hingham Police Department and Hingham Public Schools,” Police Chief Michael Peraino said. “[The program is] part of a mobilizing the community project, which was started last year. This is to address underage drinking and substance abuse. So we do different programs to give parents and kids an education on the issues.”

To help educate parents, Richard Campbell, a lawyer with Campbell Trial Lawyers, will make his popular presentation about the “social host law,” outlining the legal consequences of allowing those under 21 to drink alcohol.

Peraino and School Resource Officer Tom Ford will also be on hand during the presentation.

Some Hingham parents have discovered the consequences of hosting drinking parties the hard way. There have been three parents charged in the last three years for providing alcohol to minors, Peraino said.

Most recently, a Hingham mom was charged for hosting an underage party for her daughter, a Thayer Academy student, in April. The case went to court and was later dismissed.

While all three of the cases involving parents giving minors alcohol have been dismissed, parents aren’t usually aware of the larger consequences involved in hosting drinking parties for teens.

“There is that humiliation for providing alcohol to minors. It’s not something that you want to be charged with. And they have to get attorneys and there is a cost aspect too,” Peraino said.

Hingham High Principal Paula Girouard-McCann agreed that parents may not be totally aware of how inappropriate their behavior actually is.

“They may know the school consequences, but they may not realize that if you’re being a nice guy, letting them drink a your house and taking the keys away, that’s not a good plan,” she said.

With any luck, alerting parents to these consequences sooner rather than later could help lessen the number of parties parents are willing to be a part of, Peraino said.

“Compared to 10 years ago, I think more parents are allowing children to drink in their homes,” Peraino said. “Some parents think at least I know where they are, and some parents think it’s getting them ready for college so when they go it wont be their first time drinking, when the fact of the matter is it’s against the law. If the parent wants to allow their child to drink in their house, that’s their business, but they do not have the right to allow anyone else’s child to drink in their house.”

For tonight's presentation, organizers are hoping for a large turnout after a slew of advertisements about the event. The presentation will most likely be an annual event.

Despite the ongoing efforts and presentations focused on deterring substance abuse, Peraino said it will still be some time before they will know if their efforts have had any effect.

“We’re keeping track, so probably within another year we’ll have some concrete data on how we’re doing,” he said.

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