Teens, Beer and a Party's Consequences

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The June 9 edition of The Post left me disillusioned with our criminal justice system.

The front page told the story of a Virginia mother sentenced to jail for more than two years for serving alcohol at her son's 16th birthday party ["Party Host Mom Set for Va. Jail Term"]. The back page of the news section told the story of a Tennessee pastor's wife who will serve just a few months for killing her husband by shooting him as he lay in bed ["Woman Who Killed Husband Might Serve Only 60 Days," Nation in Brief].

What kind of perverse reasoning deems killing your husband a less serious offense than serving alcohol to teenagers? We need to rethink the zero-tolerance policies that led to the Virginia mom's draconian sentence -- and the disturbing tendency to make excuses for wives who kill that led to the Tennessee woman's ridiculously short sentence.



"No one left the party. No one was hurt. No one drove anywhere." Just days before Elisa Kelly was to begin her 27-month jail sentence for providing alcohol to minors while hosting her son Ryan's 16th birthday party, she had yet to realize the seriousness of her actions.

A study commissioned by the Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization funded by distillers, found that 65 percent of teens who drink obtain the alcohol they consume from family members and friends.

To fight this problem, the Century Council and the Federal Trade Commission developed a public awareness campaign, "We Don't Serve Teens," to inform adults that providing underage youths with alcohol is unsafe, illegal and irresponsible.

Nearly all parents agree that it is unacceptable for adults to provide alcohol to teenagers who are not their own children in private settings such as their homes or at home parties. Ms. Kelly not only endangered her own children but others.

Parents, take action to keep your kids safe.

Studies show that teens cite their parents as the leading influence over their decision to drink or not drink.



The Century Council



As a mother and a stepfather begin to serve jail sentences for serving alcohol at their son's 16th birthday party, only one thing comes to my mind:

I am so fortunate that I had the pleasure to grow up in Germany, where the purview of the government does not include destroying the lives of an entire family to restrain a 16-year-old from enjoying a beer.



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