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Police say prom and alcohol don’t mix

POSTED: April 3, 2013 12:33 a.m.

When high school students get together in droves, underage drinking is more likely to be a part of the mix, studies show.

“Some of the statistics (presenters) showed, as far where are our kids are getting the alcohol and the drugs, it’s from parties, graduations, just sort of get-togethers of that nature,” said Cpl. Joe Britte, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department.

Britte was referencing statistics highlighted by Center Point at its March 28 presentation on underage drinking at Lanier Charter Career Academy. The organization is a city of Gainesville/Hall County nonprofit that seeks to reduce risky behavior in young people.

With prom night less than a month away for city high schools — Lakeview Academy and Gainesville High School both hold prom April 27 — police are urging parents to be wary of their children’s possibly dangerous actions and associations.

“Basically where we come in, as far as a crime prevention/public relations standpoint, is we want to let our parents know, ‘Hey look, be on the lookout for this, know your child’s whereabouts, where they’re going, who they’re hanging with, making sure they don’t have alcohol with them,’” Britte said.

Results from the Georgia Student Health Survey, which anonymously surveyed voluntarily participating students, showed that 20.92 percent of Gainesville high school students have used alcohol in the past 30 days.

But Britte noted the equal importance that parents themselves show deference to underage drinking statutes.

“Whether you’re trying to keep your children in a controlled environment, if you’re serving my son or daughter alcohol, no, I’m totally against it,” he said.

Laws disallowing underage drinking are not arbitrary, medical experts have noted.

Judy Brownell is the prevention coordinator at Center Point. She said University of Georgia professor and brain development expert Dr. Merrill Norton examined the damage done to the brain by alcohol on those under the age of 21, and even up to age 25.

“The information he shared at the conference was very enlightening to us all,” she said. “We do not think either youth or their parents understand what happens to the adolescent brain.”

Britte was one of them, he said.

“He pointed out some things, that I was like, ‘Wow. Really?’ How the brain recovers after so many drinks, that sort of thing. Alcohol does destroy the brain and affect the child’s learning capability,” Britte said. “So besides it being illegal and you can go to jail for it, you are definitely causing a lot of damage to your body.”

One of the biggest concerns from a public safety standpoint on prom night is drinking and driving, Britte said.

“From a parent point of view and an officer point of view, drinking and driving do not mix. Period,” Britte said. “If it comes to going out on prom, enjoying the event, that’s fine, but alcohol plays no part in that ceremony, in my eyes.”

But Britte isn’t naive to the reality of prom night.

“Will it happen? I’m pretty sure it probably will. Will parents host private parties? It probably will happen. Is it necessarily right? No,” he said. “Even with spring break, right now, is drinking going on? Oh, yes.”

To curb dangerous behaviors, Britte said, he and fellow police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook will go to high schools for prevention and information sessions.

“We go around, do these events such as Ghost Out at Gainesville High School. Kevin and I go out to Lakeview Academy, talk to them about the dangers of drinking and driving,” he said. “The police traffic services unit goes out there for a dramatization of the dangers of drinking and driving.”

One of the most important points stressed, Britte said, is for parents to maintain an open and honest dialogue with their kids.

“Another valid point made in the workshop was the disconnect between parents and their kids — just not knowing their whereabouts and who they were hanging out with,” he said. “It was kind of shocking.”


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