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Sobering Promise : Beverly Hills Parents Asked to Keep Teen Parties Alcohol, Drug Free

November 20, 1988|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

As part of a campaign to establish "sober parties" in Beverly Hills, more than 3,500 parents are being asked to pledge that they will neither serve nor allow teen-agers to use drugs or alcohol in their homes.

The campaign is the first major undertaking of a task force set up by the Beverly Hills Council of PTAs in June to encourage "safe homes," where teen-agers are not permitted to use alcohol or drugs. The campaign has the support of the school district, the City Council and six other community organizations.

'Not Discouraging Parties'

"We are not discouraging parties, we are just discouraging the use of alcohol and drugs," said Dr. Tricia Roth, who heads the task force.

Roth, a pediatrician, says the task force hopes to create a network of parents who want to take an active role in promoting alcohol-free events. The task force will circulate a list of those who sign the pledge.

A letter, mailed last week to homes throughout Beverly Hills, asks parents to make the following promises:

I will not serve nor will I allow anyone under the legal drinking age to consume alcohol in my home;

I will not allow the use of illegal drugs in my home;

I will not allow parties or gatherings in my home when I am not there;

I will talk openly about this pledge with my children and the parents of my children's friends.

The letter also warns parents that it is illegal to serve alcoholic beverages to someone under the age of 21, and that adults may be held liable for damages caused by minors they have provided with liquor.

Judy Fenton, president of the Maple Center, a community counseling agency that supports the pledge, said parents need to be persuaded to become involved. "We have been able to get their attention when we hit them with a cold, sober fact that they could be sued," she said.

In response to parents' efforts to promote sober parties, the student paper at Beverly Hills High School ran pro and con articles side-by-side last month under the headline, "Can Kool-Aid Replace Bud Light?"

In one article, Jenny Light, a student, reasoned that "peer pressure is strong, very strong. The program (of promoting sober parties) offers a shelter for those students who want to attend a party but do not have the strength to withstand peer pressure to use drugs."

Students Jay Mandel and Danielle Mandelbaum took the opposite side, arguing that the idea of "trying to make every party a sober one is not a realistic goal. . . . Parties, drugs and drinking will never end. It is attitudes that must be adjusted."

On the school campus this week, students said they were aware that the mixture of drinking and driving often resulted in lethal consequences, such as the deaths last month of three Pacific Palisades students and an out-of-town friend in a fiery crash on San Vicente Boulevard.

"We are sorry about what happen to them, but that doesn't have anything to do with us," said one student who, like many interviewed, said that the solution to the problem is not clamping down on teen-age parties.

The student was one of several standing outside the school, chatting with friends during last Wednesday's lunch period.

None of the students in the bustling lunch-time crowd visited Room 363, where Roth was holding a well-publicized meeting for students to organize sober parties. But adult representatives of the Beverly Hills Family YMCA and the city's Department of Recreation were the only people who attended. Roth said she was surprised by the poor showing, but she added that the group will continue to reach out to the students.

Darin Fierstein, a 16-year-old junior in the lunch crowd, said parents should not try to orchestrate their children's lives. "It's not something that they can do anything about," he said. "There are a lot of kids who consider it fun to do the opposite of what their parents want them to do."

Carolyn Yashari, another 16-year-old, said: "Sometimes it seems like they think we are stupid or something. If we are old enough to drive a car, we're old enough to be responsible. The idea of having sober parties is ridiculous. We don't go to parties to drink, we go to parties to be with our friends."

The students said they often attend parties where alcohol is served but they said they are capable of taking the same precautions that adults take when out drinking: assigning designated drivers and calling home or participating in the safe-rides program, operated by the Maple Center and Arrive Alive, in which teen-agers can call for a ride home--no questions asked.

But Beverly Hills Mayor Robert K. Tanenbaum said the students' admissions are evidence that there are problems and that something should be done.

"There should be zero tolerance for drugs and drinking. It is contrary to the kinds of development we want for young people," Tanenbaum said. "Once the children know that the community is supportive of (efforts to eliminate teen-age drinking and drug abuse), they will start monitoring and policing themselves."

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