The prospect of underage drinking is likely to frighten any parent when they consider how even just a few drinks can lead to tragic outcomes. Sometimes nightmares come true.
Several officials of county organizations encourage parents to meet the issue head with their kids.
Jessey Hiebert, assistant chief at Hillsboro Police Department, has worked traffic and criminal cases where alcohol is a factor.
“We see it on the road and it’s just sick,” Hiebert said. “Drinking and drugs can lead to sexual assault and death.”
He said parents should start educating their children about the dangers of alcohol at age 10.
Hiebert was the first to respond Friday to a 13-year-old boy with alcohol poisoning that required emergency transport to a Wichita hospital.
“If you haven’t educated your kids by the time they are 13, you’re already behind the eight-ball,” Hiebert said. “I tell people, ‘you either educate your kids about drugs and alcohol or somebody else will, and if other people are educating your kids, they’re not the ones you want doing it, they’re the ones giving it to them.’”
Families and Communities Together executive director Ashlee Gann helps conduct Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition events.
She said parent disapproval is the No. 1 reason that kids say they choose not to drink.
“I think parent support and guidance is the foundation for children to make good choices,” Gann said. “Kids learn from not only what their parents teach them, but also from what they see their parents do.”
County attorney Susan Robson said penalties for underage drinking range from hundreds of dollars in fines, court, and attorney costs to community service, probation, and jail time.
Charges also can go onto an underage-drinker’s permanent record if a there is no diversion agreement.
“Charges can follow you,” she said. “It’s something that can cause problems with potential employment. Alcohol-related charges show up when they do background checks.”
She said underage drinking cases have stayed about at about the same level in the county since before she started as county attorney. However, she said noticed a relationship between underage drinking and the time of year.
“It probably happens more in the summer because they have more idle time than they do during the school year,” she said.
However, Hiebert said it is hard to tell when there is underage drinking occurs because kids typically do it secretly.
According to Marion Police assistant chief Clinton Jeffrey, the problem is hard to control.
“Kids usually don’t give out names,” he said, “They just say they don’t know where it came from.”
Approximately 35 percent of county kids (all ages) said their best friends had tried alcoholic beverages when their parents didn’t know, according to a Kansas Communities that Care survey done in 2014.
In the same survey, the number of county kids who thought that drinking once or twice a month was “cool” increased from eighth grade to 12th grade.
That survey also found that find it is “sort of easy” to acquire alcohol.
Parents are not alone in educating their children about risks and dangers associated with drinking.
Gann said all county school districts have programs related to students making safe and positive decisions.
More specifically, Peabody and Centre schools each have Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapters focused on saying no to drugs and alcohol.
“My goal is to get a SADD chapter in every school,” Gann said.