From the start, it promised to be a wild Beverly Hills party. A flyer secretly circulated at Beverly Hills High School a few days before the event advertised: "Free drinks all nite, full bar, dancing to a live D.J." All for a $3 cover charge.
The news spread quickly throughout the school. That Friday night in April, nearly 400 teen-agers with party fever danced, drank and created an uproar in the back yard of the plush house on Bedford Drive south of Sunset Boulevard.
Eventually, police were called in to put an end to the celebration, which had been organized by three students, allegedly with the knowledge of some parents, according to Dr. Trisha Roth, whose 16-year-old daughter attended the party.
It wasn't long before other parents got wind of the Bedford bash, the alcohol served with the blessing of adults, and the $3 cover charge. They also learned that the young party-goers were not allowed to use the phone at the house, Roth said. That meant that if the youngsters had too much to drink, they couldn't call for a ride home.
Established Task Force
"The whole thing made me angry," Roth said, adding that she drove her daughter, Samantha, to the party but did not know what was going on there until her daughter told her afterward. "Even if they wanted to call for help, they couldn't," Roth said.
Roth brought the matter to the attention of the Beverly Hills Council of PTAs, which agreed to set up a task force to look into the problem of alcohol being served to minors at parties. The first meeting is scheduled to begin at noon on Tuesday in Conference Room A at the Beverly Hills Unified School District Administration Building, 255 S. Lasky Drive.
Roth said the task force is expected to urge police and the school district to work with parents to crack down on parties where alcohol is served to minors. Students will be encouraged to have drug- and alcohol-free events.
The group's goals, Roth admits, may be easier stated than achieved.
"It is not a popular issue," she said, adding that her involvement with the task force "probably won't make my daughter popular in school, but something has to be done," Roth said. "Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone wants their child to be safe, and yet no one wants to make waves (for their children)."
Parents were troubled to learn that other parents are allowing their children to serve alcohol.
"It is happening every weekend," said Sharon Flaum, president of the Beverly Hills Council of PTAs. "A parent bragged about his enterprising son who made $800 selling drinks at a party. I told him he was crazy. I could not believe it."
Flaum said she also told the parent that he could be held liable if a minor under the influence left his house and became involved in a traffic accident.
The task force is not Beverly Hills High's first step in fighting alcohol abuse. The school was among several high schools that sent letters to parents setting out guidelines on how to give parties and what to expect when their child is planning to attend one.
Beverly Hills students are routinely counseled about the dangers of alcohol abuse. And they take advantage of Arrive Alive, a safe-rides program that provides students who have had too much to drink a free taxi ride home, no questions asked.
Roth said the task force will consider whether to organize a chapter of the California Friday Night Live Program, which was developed in 1984 by the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs under funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety and private industry. The program, which has 21 chapters throughout the state, encourages teen-agers to develop alternatives to alcohol and drug use by having sober and drug-free dances, movie nights, rallies and assemblies.
"It is unfortunate, but Beverly Hills children don't have anything to do, they don't have any place to go to hang out and have a soda," said Anneli Roth (no relation to Trisha Roth), president of Arrive Alive.
Anneli Roth and other parents in the city support the establishment of a center where high school students may gather for supervised activities.
Marty Nislick, the executive director of the Maple Center, a nonprofit community counseling center, said the uproar has helped shed additional light on a problem that often goes ignored until it is too late.
"We have students who have substance abuse problems, and a lot of people don't recognize it," he said. "They say the kids don't have a problem, they only drink or get high on the weekends. They don't realize that someone doesn't have to get drunk or get high every day to be an alcoholic or a drug addict.
"Sometimes, it seems the message that we as a community are giving is that this is not a serious problem. We say they are only teen-agers enjoying the rites of passage. We say that until they get into trouble. And then we get mad."