In addition to the spectre of someone's injury or death on their conscience if they allow alcohol to be served to minors, parents may be legally liable for damage to people and property if teen-agers were illegally drinking in their homes. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that hosts of private parties can be held liable when minors are served alcohol and are involved in wrecks. The case involved a 17-year-old boy who had been drinking beer. When he left the party, beer in hand, he broadsided a car and killed the driver. The driver's widow sued the mother of the party host and collected $200,000.
In Fairfax County citizens may report to their local police station a planned party which is expected to have under-age use of alcohol. An officer will make a visit to the party sight in advance and advise the adults of the legal aspects regarding the party. The party will be monitored by the police.
In Arlington, a policeman is assigned to every high school, with an office in the school. He works with students in trying to head off or regulate parties. According to Lt. Gilbert Haring of Arlington County Police Department, police work with PTAs to arrange chaperones for parties.
As a result of the heavy damage to the Bethesda house mentioned in this article, a Parent Forum was organized at Walt Whitman High School. "Kids have networks but parents don't," says Gay Gibbons, one of the founders. "We're trying to create networks through meetings that address all the issues involved in teen parties," she adds.
If you are going out of town and plan to leave your teen-ager home alone, consider notifying your neighbors, telling them whether you want parties in your home. You may want to ask neighbors to call the police if they should see a party beginning.