Grads: Invite safety to your celebration This year, I...

Carroll letters

May 26, 2002

Grads: Invite safety to your celebration

This year, I again ask you to help me congratulate the parents of the current high school graduating class. Not only the students, but their parents have reached a very special milestone with this achievement. I hope that great joy comes with the celebration, but as most parents of adolescents know, we must add words of caution. In Carroll County as in other parts of our society, celebration also holds the potential for unwanted and unexpected sadness if care and caution are not discussed and practiced.

Carroll County Public School students have been taught the best choice regarding drinking and premarital sex is abstinence. This message is conveyed through required programs in Health, Family Life and Human Development, and AIDS education. Students have also been subject to strong disciplinary policies and administrative procedures regarding the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. We know from past experiences, however, that without thought of consequences, alcohol and other drugs are used as a major part of the celebration that takes place during "Senior Week."

Alcohol lowers inhibitions, impairs judgment and harms coordination skills. Regardless of the encouragement by advertising and other media to the contrary, use of alcohol and other drugs increases the chance for car crashes, physical damage, high-risk sexual behaviors and legal problems. The parent of a graduating senior this year needs to be aware that their child may be exposed to potentially risky situations. Parents can talk with their children about appropriate ways to handle themselves.

In the past months, senior students in our high schools have received several reminders of our concern through guest speakers such as Bobby Petrocelli, whose wife was suffocated when a drunk driver drove into their house. Officer Howard Kaplan from the Ocean City Police Department, Tfc. Tony Riley and I visited each high school last week. Officer Kaplan advised the students of expected behavior while visiting the resort, and Tfc. Riley advised them of local efforts to thwart the purchase of alcohol by adults for minors or by those under 21 using fake or borrowed IDs.

The RAAM project (Reducing Availability of Alcohol to Minors) is an important resource here in Carroll County. This is a cooperative effort initiated through Junction Inc., and implemented through the leadership of the Maryland State Police. Our cooperating law enforcement agencies and liquor retailers have been and will continue to work as a team in the liquor stores and parking lots to prevent youth access to alcohol. We need to celebrate their efforts to make our community safe.

If a parent has a son or daughter celebrating in Ocean City without them, they can check out the place where she or he will be staying by contacting the owner or landlord. Developing a plan with a senior to stay in touch during the week and reminding him or her of their responsibility regarding the care of the rental property are ideas worthy of note. It is always best for parents to be clear about expectations when talking with adolescents. Resources are available to families if their child is alone or with other young friends in Ocean City. The "Play It Safe" booklet was either distributed to seniors at our assembly or will be in their senior packets. The booklet contains important emergency information as well as coupons and ideas for many fun and free things to do. As Officer Kaplan advised the seniors, the Ocean City police have also implemented RAAM, forming a partnership with liquor retailers and motel and hotel operators to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors.

Congratulations to our graduates and their families! I hope this information helps make graduation a healthy and safe one for all of us.

Joanne M. Hayes


The writer is substance abuse prevention coordinator for Carroll County Public Schools.

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