When parents allow teen-agers to drink Parents, others meet to discuss teen drinking.

May 10, 1991|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff

When Chris Batten threw a dinner party for her daughter's 18th birthday, she prepared enough food for 24 teen-agers and served all the soda they could drink.

But Batten didn't serve alcohol.

"Everyone left at 9 o'clock," she recalls. "It was the saddest thing. Even my daughter said to me, 'Mom, I feel so used. I knew they were going to leave, but I didn't think it would be this early.'"

Batten, whose daughter graduates this year from Towson High School, was among the approximately 50 parents and community group members who met last night at Dulaney High School to express their concern over adults serving alcohol to minors.

"On every Friday and Saturday night of the school year, there are parties being held where alcohol is served -- and parents know about it," said Michael Gimbel, coordinator of the county Office of Substance Abuse, who attended the meeting.

"The No. 1 problem in the high schools is teen-age drinking and the issue of parents allowing it to happen," Gimbel said.

He said that at some parties, parents will justify serving alcoholic beverages to minors by taking away the youths' car keys. And though that reduces the chance of a minor's driving drunk, "it's time to take another step," Gimbel said.

"Parents have sold out their responsibility of controlling their children," he said.

One concern of many parents at the meeting was what some said was a lack of support from police in enforcing laws against underage drinking. Several parents wanted to know why minors weren't arrested when caught drinking alcohol at parties hosted by adults, or on their own.

"We don't have any legal right to make an arrest in that situation," Capt. Kevin Sanzenbacher, commanding officer of the Baltimore County Police Department's Cockeysville precinct, told parents.

"The only thing we have a right to do is issue a citation," he said. Copies of the citations are sent to the minor's parents for a signature. Then the parents and child have to appear in Juvenile Court.

But in some cases, Gimbel said, the citation is never issued.

"Sometimes [officers] will just pour the booze out, sometimes they'll yell at the kids to scatter. Sometimes, it's nothing," he said.

For many parents, one of the most painful parts of working to stop teen-age drinking is the alienation from their own children.

"My son is barely speaking to me at the moment," said Amy Deutchendorf, whose article prompting parents to take responsibility for their children's prom night activities was published last week in The Evening Sun.

Batten said her refusal to serve alcohol to minors has kept her daughter's friends from socializing at her home.

"I absolutely adore these kids, but they won't come to our house because we won't let them drink," she said.

But for some parents, alienation is too much to handle. And it's the permissive parents who make the laws and rules more difficult to enforce.

"It puts us in the minority, and the child is the only one who can't go" out drinking, said Gail Shane, a member of Neighbors Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse. "And then you're the bad guy. Parents have to stick together."

Perhaps most difficult for parents to prevent is the renting of hotel rooms by students for parties after the prom. Dulaney High incidentally is to hold its prom tonight at Martin's West

Parents are reluctant to say no, and so "sell out" their own values because it's a special evening, Gimbel said.

"It's going to take years to change values," Gimbel said. "It took years to get to the situation we're in."

After four years of monitoring her daughter, Batten admits she's tired. But her 14-year-old son starts high school in the fall "and I know it's going to start all over," she said.

"And I just can't give up."

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