The principal of Freedom High School believes that alcohol abuse among students at Freedom and Liberty High School is so rampant that it is only a matter of time before one of them dies in an alcohol-related tragedy.
Moreover, Michael LaPorta, in an article published in this month’s Freedom Patriot – the official Parent Teacher Organization newsletter -- lays blame for some of this alcohol abuse at the feet of parents who, he wrote, are too often the source of the alcohol and the provider of the party space where the drinking is being done.
What do you think? Is Principal LaPorta right? Is alcohol abuse rampant among high school teenagers and are parents often to blame? Tell us in the comments.
LaPorta cited several examples – spread out over the last 25 years in other school districts – of such parties that ended in tragedy and, in some cases, criminal charges for the parents or supervising adult.
Then he wrote about conversations with parents that revealed to him the lax attitude some adults of Freedom students have toward teens and drinking.
One “conversation was with one parent who stated his child was invited to a party. This parent called the host parents and asked if alcohol would be provided to the children. The host parent stated there would be no alcohol, and adults would be present. After the party concluded, the student of the parent with whom I was discussing the incident shared that his child said the host parents provided alcohol. This parent became angry and confronted the host parent. The host parent’s response amazes me to this date. He said, “Get your head out of the sand. All kids drink. We were supervising the party and nobody got out of control.”
LaPorta implored adults to refrain from supplying alcohol to teens.
“Have the courage to stand up to your children and say NO!” he wrote. “Nobody said parenting would be easy. This is one of those times.
“One of my greatest fears is of having to make that dreaded morning announcement on a morning that we have lost one of our very own.”
What follows is the full text of LaPorta's article:
Recently I have had numerous conversations about alcohol consumption and marijuana use with students across the four grade levels at Freedom High School. Similarly, I have had these same conversations with parents in our community, staff members of Freedom High School, and administration within the Liberty High School community.
The general consensus is that these behaviors are rampant, and it is only a matter of time before our school communities experience the catastrophic loss of one of our students.
Additionally, many of these conversations yielded the unthinkable notion that some parents, older siblings, and older friends or relatives are both the sources of alcohol and providers of the locations of these parties. Therefore, I feel compelled to write this article titled, “The Elephant in the Room.”
Back in 1986, three years into my teaching career, in the area where I grew up, I remember the tragic ending of a Saucon Valley student’s life that shocked the community as he left an underage drinking party late one night. This young man was struck by a car and eventually died from his injuries. The days following this most unfortunate event revealed that the victim was well over the legal limit for alcohol consumption.
Additionally, it was proven that the parent and homeowner knowingly, though reluctantly, supplied the alcohol. In testimony at the civil law suit, this homeowner and parent stated that he allowed the underage party to occur because he knew that his son would have found another way to host a party of this nature. The moral of this story is to understand that as adults and parents, we need to stand up to our children and say NO to these requests. The consequences are huge and life changing from a negative standpoint.
One may say, “Mr. LaPorta, that was over 25 years ago.” Let me fast forward to more recent times and look at more unfortunate events. In a nearby community (2008), a mother was arrested and charged with supplying alcohol to 16 teenagers who were also arrested in this situation. She was eventually sent to prison.
In Palmer Township a group of 16-year-old youngsters decided to have a beer party in a barn. Unfortunately, this party got out of control and the barn caught fire and burned down. This historic building needed to be rebuilt.
In our own community of Bethlehem Township, we have had two incidents of underage drinking leading to injury and arrest over the past couple of years. The first incident had an adult purchasing alcohol for a group of Freedom students. These students became intoxicated and inappropriate pictures were taken. The second incident occurred in June 2010 resulting in a youngster being stabbed. In all of these cases adults provided alcohol, these parties got out of control, the misfortune could have been prevented, and adults were sent to prison.
Again, one may say, “Mr. LaPorta, the aforementioned events are only a few over a period of time.” Now let me share some of my conversations and experiences with students and adults during this school year. Over the last three years we frequently have had to invoke our athletic code of conduct for student athletes who have had alcohol or drug related offences.
One conversation I had with a parent shared with me that his child was at a party where the parents provided the alcohol for many underage Freedom High School students. Unfortunately, this parent was very uncomfortable and unwilling to share names. Additionally, these parents indicated they did not want to call the police.
Another conversation was with one parent who stated his child was invited to a party. This parent called the host parents and asked if alcohol would be provided to the children. The host parent stated there would be no alcohol, and adults would be present. After the party concluded, the student of the parent with whom I was discussing the incident shared that his child said the host parents provided alcohol. This parent became angry and confronted the host parent. The host parent’s response amazes me to this date. He said, “Get your head out of the sand. All kids drink. We were supervising the party and nobody got out of control.”
Another conversation with some students indicated that there are a number of students who “pregame” before our sporting events. These “pregame” events are occurring in homes where there are ranging levels of supervision from some to none.
In another conversation with some of our underclass students, they asked me if it were possible to have breathalyzers at the prom. They stated they are concerned with the amount of drinking that is going on in our community. They said they are afraid somebody is going to get hurt or worse. To be quite honest with everyone, so am I.
As Principal of Freedom High School and as a parent of a Freedom High School student, I feel compelled to expose “The Elephant in the Room.” I implore all our parents to use common sense, good judgment, and be responsible parents to their children and their guests. To those who do, quit supplying alcohol to kids! Please don’t be that parent who says, “I will collect all of your keys and nothing will happen.” That is what the Saucon Valley family said back in 1986.
If you are planning to be away from your home for an extended period of time, please have a plan of supervision for your children if you are leaving them home alone. Have the courage to stand up to your children and say NO! Nobody said parenting would be easy. This is one of those times. If you are tempted to allow an underage drinking party, please know you run the risk of destroying your family, the families of others, going to jail, and being sued.
One of my greatest fears is of having to make that dreaded morning announcement on a morning that we have lost one of our very own. Please don’t be that parent who contributed to the need for me to make this announcement. If you are aware of underage drinking, don’t ignore it. If you are aware of a child, perhaps your own, who is having difficulty with alcohol or drug use, contact a teacher, guidance counselor, or building administrator. We can get the Student Assistance Program (SAP) involved with your concern. And to all of those elephants that disagree with this article, don’t become an ostrich and get your head out of the sand. Together as parents, we can make a difference.