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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | RELIGION

Parents Take Pledge: No Teen Drinking

Adults concerned about safety of their children at parties may receive a directory listing other families that have also taken the stand against alcohol and drugs.

September 02, 2000|NANCY KINSEY NEEDHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Parents concerned about their teenagers attending parties where alcohol is served or that are without adult supervision usually have to depend on the trust they place in their children.

Promises that such gatherings will be safe are often followed by the words, "But everybody else is allowed to . . . "

Now parents facing teens whining this old refrain can stand tough and literally throw the book at them.

Thanks to Community Partners for a Safer Neighborhood, an arm of Ventura Interfaith Ministerial Assn., parents who sign the group's Safer Neighborhood Parent Pledge receive a directory of the names of other parents who share their values on teenage entertainment.

The pledge states: "I take the responsibility to ensure that all social events in my home involving teenagers will be chaperoned as well as alcohol-, drug- and tobacco-free. I will also provide information to parents or guardians who request confirmation of social arrangements involving their children."

About 650 parents in Ventura have signed these pledges, sent over the past two spring semesters--in cooperation with the Ventura County Unified School District--to about 9,000 homes.

The pledges are timely. In July, 18 Oak Park High School football players were found drinking in host homes while at a tournament in Santa Ynez. They will be suspended from two games in the upcoming season.

Parents Anne and Stephen Magoon, both teachers in Ventura, signed and sent back the pledge soon after it arrived in their mail because it sends a good message, Anne said.

"I feel very strongly adults need to make it real clear where they stand on drugs and alcohol, and that should be: 'If you're underage it's not legal and you don't drink it,' " she said.

The Rev. Marilyn K. Miller of Camarillo Church of Religious Science is the director of Community Partners for a Safer Neighborhood. Miller said she has found that parents appreciate having each others' support in saying no to their minor children on alcohol use.

Supporting sobriety is increasingly difficult, Miller said, as more parents consider drunken parties a rite of passage or argue that since it is inevitable teens will drink, it is better they imbibe at home.

She said hundreds of parents disagree and are trying to protect their children, lower the rate of traffic accidents and reduce violent crime.

A series of youth homicides in 1996 in Oxnard and Ventura led to creation of the parent pledge program, coordinator Pat Barrett said.

Responding to a statistical connection between violent crime and alcohol sales and consumption, Barrett decided to get involved with a parent pledge program that parent Kathy Olsen had begun at Newbury Park High School in January 1996.

Barrett's group, the Coalition of Community Action Network, revised the first line of the pledge to read: "Yes, I take the responsibility to ensure that all social events in my home will be properly chaperoned so as to prevent the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco by minors."

The change was made because some parents thought the original pledge too strong about an event being totally alcohol-free. While the objective was to prevent minors from illegally drinking, it also prohibited adult guests from drinking in the homes, she said.

The network hopes to expand its parent awareness program to Ojai, Westlake and Thousand Oaks high schools, Olsen said.

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After four years, there are now nearly 800 parents participating whose children attend Newbury Park High School and Sequoia Middle School. Olsen considers that a sizable number, considering enrollment at the two schools totals about 2,750 students.

"I started this when my son was in high school, and I and other parents noticed honor roll students, star athletes and even the band kids were attending parties where alcohol was served to minors," Olsen said.

Hoping to recapture the connection she had with other parents when her children were elementary school age, Olsen started the pledge and the directory as a way to put parents back in touch with one another.

Her daughter Danielle, now a 17-year-old senior, said she was glad for her mother's efforts and suggested it helps keep her and friends out of trouble.

"My mom is pretty paranoid, but she makes sense," Danielle said.

Patty Contini, health program specialist for Ventura Unified School District, is another supporter of the program.

"It counters the teen's thinking that it is acceptable to drink alcohol and sends a clear message from parents and the community that says the parents are going to pull together," Contini said.

Ventura Police Chief Mike Tracy also applauds the group's efforts and encourages more parents to consider signing the pledge.

"Alcohol is probably the biggest social problem we have," Tracy said. "These parents are not overreacting. It is not uncommon to see kids drinking alcohol."

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