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The Party's Over--Before It Even Began

June 01, 1997|JOANN LOVIGLIO | ASSOCIATED PRESS

CUMBERLAND, R.I. — For parents who worry that the minute they leave for a trip their kids crank up a house party, this town offers hope: a standing invitation for police to crash it.

Parents may now waive their constitutional rights and allow officers to enter their homes without a warrant if they think there's a party going on.

"There are lots of single parents who work two jobs and can't keep an eye on their kids 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Donna Bergeron, who said her son, a high school senior, has never thrown a party while she was away--as far as she knows.

"It's time to say enough is enough," Chief Anthony Silva said.

The "Parents Consent to Search" form was made available May 7, and police say they have already received several calls. Forms were to be mailed to all 283 seniors at Cumberland High School in time for graduation parties.

The American Civil Liberties Union has warned parents that they may come to regret giving up their rights.

"It's a tremendous overreaction to a problem that can be addressed in more moderate and reasonable ways," said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU.

Parents should take responsibility, not give it to police, said Sally Field, the mother of a high school senior. She would never sign a consent form, she said.

"My son's 18 and when we go away, he has a baby sitter," she said.

But as communities try to find ways to stop underage drinking, the consent form is less intrusive than other steps, said Cumberland School Supt. Joseph Nasif Jr.

In Rehoboth, Mass., administrators at Dighton-Rehoboth High School required students arriving at the prom to pass a Breathalyzer test before they were admitted to the dance.

"Who can argue with something that gives parents peace of mind and can protect kids?" Nasif asked. He refused to allow a reporter to interview students.

Silva brushed aside concerns that police might abuse their power.

"We're not going to be going into cupboards and digging into bedroom drawers," Silva said.

"Maybe we're taking away the rights of some teenagers, that remains to be seen. But are we giving parents more rights? Absolutely," he said.

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