For Release: May 12, 2016 – Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications
Graduation is one of the most anticipated events in a high school career. For many, walking across the stage to receive a diploma is a bittersweet moment that marks the transition from adolescence to adulthood, leaving the familiar to embrace the future. Pomp and circumstance is usually followed by parties and other celebratory activities, but when underage drinking is involved, graduation day can quickly shift from a day of celebration to a day of tragedy.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) knows that graduation is an exciting milestone that should certainly be celebrated, but unfortunately, many teens choose to celebrate this milestone by drinking, often to excess. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by minors ages 12 to 20, and that 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking.
The area of the brain responsible for decision-making is not fully developed in teenagers, and alcohol, especially in excess, greatly diminishes their ability to make good decisions. Drinking leads to extremely poor decisions that often result in tragedy. Graduation night tragedies can be prevented by responsible parents and adults who refuse to provide alcohol to minors.
One in four teens who drink report that they are supplied with alcohol by a parent or a family member. Parents may have the false impression that allowing teens to drink under adult supervision is a good alternative to going out and drinking elsewhere. In truth, serious negative consequences can still result, including risk of alcohol-related injury for teens and legal liabilities for parents.
Under Oklahoma’s social host law, any person, adult or minor, who provides a location for youth under 21 to drink alcohol can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $500. Fines increase with each subsequent offense, eventually leading to a felony. Even if they are not present, the owner or renter of the property can still be held responsible if they had knowledge of the party. If a youth under 21 is injured or killed in connection with the gathering, the host is charged with a felony punishable by a minimum of five years in prison and a fine of $2,500.
OSDH offers the following tips to keep your teen safe on graduation night:
Talk to them about the dangers of impaired driving on graduation night.
Have a plan in place for them to secure a safe ride home should they, or the person they ride with, become unable to drive safely due to drug or alcohol impairment.
Set rules regarding graduation night activities as well as consequences for breaking the rules.
Set a curfew for the night and stay up to make sure they arrive home safely.
Do not rent hotel rooms, condos, etc. for teens on graduation night.
Never provide alcohol to teens or allow them to consume alcohol on your property.
Coordinate with other parents to verify your teens’ itinerary for the night.
Host or plan an adult-supervised drug/alcohol-free graduation-party.