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Principal Blames Parents for Teen Alcohol Use

Freedom High School's principal implores parents to stop supplying alcohol and drinking party space to teens before tragedy strikes.

 

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.

Mary Anne Looby January 31, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Good for Mr. LaPorta. I hope his words do not go unheard. Underage drinking has been rampant in our highschools for a very long time. My kids are grown, but I refused to allow my son to go to an "after prom" party at a private home, because when I spoke with the Mother she basically told me I was a fool for thinking it didn't happen and she and her husband would be supervising and taking keys. Don't know if you remember that conversation Nancy, but I am glad my son ended up at the school sponsored after party. Can't imagine your son had as much fun at your house!
BethTwp January 31, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Unfortunately there are parents today who are the heavy partiers and sometimes right in front of their kids. And with Facebook, they are posting their drunken pictures for all to see including their kids.
Dolores Pfeiffer January 31, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Finally a Principal who stands up to his values. That is not an easy job in this world of out of control parents who are either too fearful to discipline or just don't care enough to expend the energy. Thank goodness my children grew up before the self discipline crisis. Best of Luck to you "The Leaders of our Schools". "Everyone Lead by Example" !
Lori Lewis January 31, 2013 at 04:11 PM
True, but what happened to: "do as I say, not as I do” Parents need to stop being friends with their kids and act like a parent!
sue January 31, 2013 at 04:27 PM
hear, hear mr laporta! no means no. plain and simple it is illegal! and i cant believe parents are willing to lose everything they worked for to come off as a "cool parent". its not only illegal its hurts the not fully developed brain. these alcohol related deaths are happening way too often anymore. theyre becoming just another story, that vanishes from the news too quickly......but not from the loved ones left behind. i pray to God i am never given this type of news about any of my children.
M January 31, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Thank you for your comment. What the public is not aware of is there are so many under-aged drinkers on the road. Their licenses or permits are being suspended on a daily basis.(In some cases this isn't the first time.) What makes it worse is when a parent brings that same student into Motor Vehicle, pays their fine (s) and have an State ID issued. The parent or student will actually ask if they can drive with the ID card. The new law about the increased fines doesn't do a lot to deter their drinking, nor does the possibility of getting caught driving with a suspended license make them stop. A parent who cares about their child and other people is the first line of defense. CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE DRINKING!!
Sharon M. Brady February 01, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Our idiot governor want to make alcohol more easily accessible. Privatize liquor stores and make beer available in supermarkets and convenience stores?? I don't care what 48 other states do, I care about Pennsylvania and keeping alcohol as inconvenient as possible. Our children are precious and need to be cherished and protected. This article needs to be shared. THANK YOU Mr. LaPorta!!
Melody February 01, 2013 at 01:09 AM
This is the problem with the youth of today, they are not taught to follow rules or the law. I hear many parents say I would rather they drink at home . Really!!!!!!! How about just telling them no the law is you must be 21. My daughter is twent two and comes home from college and has no problem asking her father or I to be a designated driver for her and a friends. They don't go out and get intoxicated, but she knows the law and respects it. My son is 16 and he is not allowed to go to a friends home where there is not a parent home. And is taught know matter what, if he feels uncomfortable somewhere or if people are doing something he knows is wrong, call me and i will come get him no questions asked. Good for you Mr. LaPorta, but the problem is so many parents in today's society blame everyone else for what their children do. Parents it's time to take responsibility for your own children. And teach them morals and to be law abiding citizens.
Melody February 01, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Good for your Mr.LaPorta, because the truth is the blame does belong to the parents. Today's society does not teach their children, but blame everyone else when their children do wrong. I know parents who say they let their children drink at home, because they will do it anyway. So they would rather be at home. Really!!!!! Why not teach them the law that you cannot drink until you are twenty one,because that is the law. Children today are not taught to respect the law ,and are not taught any morals. Parents are always making excuses for their children. Wake up parents know where your children are and who their friends are. Think about it parents if you tell them it's ok to drink alcohol at home, what's next drugs because you don't want them to buy them off the streets? Just try teaching them to follow the laws.
Nick Ward February 01, 2013 at 12:02 PM
I am not a fan of Mr Laporta. He does and says things that put him in a good light,,,,Mr Laporta cares about Mr Laporta. I know personally how he turned his back on a close friend of his because the frriend got in trouble. And it would look bad if Mr Laporta was a fgriend of the man in trouble Bottom line...he is a " fake " cares about his own self
sue February 01, 2013 at 06:31 PM
whether that is true or not nick, i still like what he is saying in this article. parents need to be parents and not idiots. rules are rules and laws are laws. the sooner kids learn this the better their adult life will be. we have too many kids raising kids.
Ann February 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Shame on you Nick. You took this opportunity to make a personal attack on this man. I do not know him, but think it is uncalled for that you buried him. You gave us little facts. That is your subjective opinion. The rest of us would like to stay on topic. Mr. Laporta put himself out there to call out these irresponsible parents. This problem is huge! I am a Parkland parent and I also blame these types of parents for endorsing their children's bad behavior. My teenage children have told me some unbelievable stories. These parents are clueless! Good for Mr. Laporta!
Melody February 02, 2013 at 04:41 AM
Sorry nick. You made my point. Children are what they are taught. To attack Mr LaPorta for something that is none of your business . He is a great principal and cares for these children.
GrowUpSaucon February 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Excellent job Mr. LaPorta! It's about time auhority figures use their voice to protect children. Parents...STOP! Those who allow , those who provide and those who are setting a bad example...PLEASE STOP!
tamarya February 22, 2013 at 03:32 AM
amen! I just read another article about that school and that district is the last to be pointing fingers at parents when they don't know from a rats a** how to handle their students on school grounds.
tamarya February 22, 2013 at 03:39 AM
And may I ask to how the wonderful freedom school district educates their students about alcohol use. Of course my parents taught me not to use it, but most of the lessons came from school. I guess though that was the time when kids were actually educated on real life traumas instead of no education just parental blame.
John February 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Agree....agree and agree. The generation who is to blame here is the parents. Being your child's friend, buddy and pal? C'mon, grow up people. Having the "cool house", where groups of kids come every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night? Don't you remember those houses growing up? Remember the "stuff" that went on there? Well that is EXACTLY what is going on in your house, if not more! Sleepovers, at 16, 17 and 18? Really? Coed sleepovers? Ever have those growing up? Me neither! Parent have a difficult enough time parenting their own kids, much les others kids. But parenting other parents? You're not col or hip, you're an idiot being taken advantage of by all of the kids using your house as a teenage romper room. Used, just like you probably were back in high school......stop the cycle!
John February 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM
C'mon Sharon, putting beer in Wegman's is not the cause of teen drinking. Responsibility, knowing your children's friends and whereabouts is a whole lot more important than beer in Wegmans. Don't be shocked to find the parents of your kids friends already supplying the beer, or at the very least "keeping them drinking at home". That may be ok for the host's kids, but most kids drive home afterwards. Underage drinking has long been a problem before the present and previous Governor. By cracking down on what happens under our roof, and demonstrating personal responsibility regarding alcohol will help the cause. The stories I hear kids tell me about some parents has been numbing. I support Mr. LaPorta in his statement.

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