Graduation season - a time in which we watch our students celebrate further steps into adulthood.

It should be a happy season full of promise, but all too often it can be marred by tragedy. Unfortunately, graduation parties can be occasions for underage drinking.

Maybe that seems harmless. Why shouldn't these young people try alcohol while they are trying on their caps and gowns? The reasons are simple and stark: alcohol is implicated in one-third of all youth traffic crashes. Underage drinking is also associated with violence, suicide, educational failure, other problem behaviors, brain damage and alcohol poisoning.

We owe it to our young people to help protect them from these dangers; many parents in our local communities are taking action and helping schools host alcohol-free celebrations the night of graduation. Unfortunately, some parents believe that they can protect their children by actually hosting parties where alcohol is served. In fact, 20 percent of 11th graders surveyed for a project of the Oregon Research Institute and the Prevention Research Center reported that their parents had supplied them with alcohol. More than half reported that other adults had provided them with alcohol and 73 percent reported that they obtained alcohol at parties or other social occasions.

Parents who supply alcohol to their children and their children's friends may think they are providing a safe setting for drinking, but they should know that there are serious legal implications of this behavior. They can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and fined $350 for the first violation or up to $1,000 and 30 days of imprisonment for subsequent charges.

If an accident or injury results from the underage drinking, the parents hosting the party can be sued. Even if the worst doesn't happen, they have conveyed a destructive message to their children and their children's friends - that breaking the law is OK, that drinking is harmless, that adults won't support the high standards of behavior that the community is trying to set.

There are also legal consequences for young people. A first citation of Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) is eligible for diversion through the Juvenile Department. The Columbia Memorial Hospital and the Juvenile Department have collaborated to provide a rigorous educational class for first-time offender and their parents. The class focuses on potential trauma outcomes, results of further referrals and ways to prevent future violations. The class costs $40.

The second and subsequent MIP offenses will go before the Clatsop County Circuit Court. The mandatory consequence for an MIP will result in the youth having to pay a fine and a unitary assessment. The maximum fine for a Class B violation is $370, and the unitary assessment for a violation is $37. The youth will have to obtain a drug and alcohol assessment and successfully complete any recommended treatment or education program.

The court is also required to enter a denial in the youth's driving privileges and notify the DMV of the adjudication within 24 hours. The court order should include the phrase, "The said youth's driving privileges shall be denied, subject to provisions for reinstatement." Reinstatement may occur if the Court finds it to be appropriate, after 90 days for the first adjudication. For all subsequent adjudications reinstatement will occur after one year. Youth also have to pay a reinstatement of driving privileges fee to the DMV.

Let's all work to get our young people safely through the season.

? Don't allow alcohol to be served to anyone younger than 21 in your home.

? Talk to the parents of your children's friends and make sure they won't be serving alcohol to your child or anyone else's child younger than 21.

? Make sure that any party your child attends is well supervised.

? Monitor the alcohol in your home. Only keep small quantities or lock up large amounts.

Together we can help make sure that this is indeed a season of celebration and of hope for all of our children.

Mary Jackson is a probation officer for Clatsop County Juvenile Department and a member of the Reduce Underage Drinking Task Force

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