Enforce school drinking policy

Carroll County: School system must emphasize dangers of underage drinking with meaningful penalties.

February 09, 2000

UNDERAGE drinking is a criminal shame. It's dangerous for everyone, not just the kid who takes a drink. That message must be understood by minors, by law enforcement officers, by parents and especially by the public schools.

So the students of Liberty High School who got caught drinking at house parties on New Year's Eve should endure the full consequences of their decision to attend -- and to stay -- at parties where kids were drinking.

About 20 teen-agers have been implicated, including students active in sports and extracurricular activities at the Eldersburg school. Possible suspensions from clubs and activities can range up to 45 days; a final decision is coming. It will blemish their records and could affect college admissions.

Meanwhile, the Carroll County school system is reviewing eligibility standards for school activities and penalties for violations. A committee of parents, students and school administrators has struggled with the concept of "constructive possession" of alcohol by students who do not drink but are present where other minors drink. After a hearing next week, the panel will draft a final document for the superintendent's approval.

Objections to the strict penalties include the "I was only there to help a friend" defense and the argument that penalties only affect students in school activities.

Those are typical, and bogus. The message should be clear to all after that incident, especially after a policy review by the courts and the school board: no attendance at gatherings where underage drinking occurs.

Carroll students are taught how to respond to drinking situations; participants in sports and other activities take a pledge to follow the rule. The cost of underage drinking is too steep to allow any leniency here.

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