The shooting last month of a 17-year-old girl in a Northwest nightclub has prompted much debate about nightspots that serve alcohol and admit teenagers. D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is sponsoring legislation that, among other things, would require any District club, bar or restaurant with entertainment to obtain a special permit to admit anyone younger than 21 after 11 p.m. He backed away from an earlier idea to ban teens from such clubs after an outcry that the restriction would seriously harm the city's nightlife. The Washington Post invited teens at several high schools to share their thoughts about the controversy. Here are a few of them.
'An Act of Protection'Friday nights used to come around rather slowly, as I began anticipating my weekend activities early. I did not have many opportunities to party at clubs as a teenager because my mother felt they were dangerous. But when she finally let me enjoy that freedom, and no longer worried, I began to go to nightclubs. Curiously, those feelings of worry soon arose in me.
The club scene was exciting, with music, lots of teenagers, some of them my peers, and alcohol. Old and young mixed in a night of fire. Why do I call it a night of fire? Because at any moment on any night it can all go up in flames. The only extinguisher is to ban alcohol from clubs my peers and other teenagers attend.
I believe that may be the best way to keep us alive and safe, because it's proven that the mixture of teens and D.C. nightclubs with drinks, in most cases, causes disasters.
Nightclubs can't prevent the sharing of drinks between customers over 21 and those who are underage, as long as they are in the same place. Nightclubs already struggle with safety issues. Imagine adding rowdy teenagers to the mix, and alcohol. Why add fuel to the fire? Why give some teenagers who already are violent, uncontrolled and irresponsible the opportunity to participate in something that would make them even more violent, wild and irresponsible?
I see the pending legislation as an act of protection.
During my last nightclub visit, I saw two intoxicated females take part in a brawl against one semi-intoxicated female. It settled my decision. I worried for my own safety; therefore, I participated less in the club scene. Now, I realize after all of the years I lived to club, I might not live if I club.
Bianca Edwards, 16
Junior, Theodore Roosevelt High School
'Distrust for Teenagers'I'm glad the council is no longer considering legislation that would have banned teenagers from clubs that sell alcohol. I found that idea to be ridiculous.
Personally, I have never been to a nightclub at all, nor have I ever had the desire to go to one. They just don't spark my interests. However, I do feel that people should have the right to go where they want and do what they want, despite their age. Passing a bill to prevent people under 18 from entering seemed rather stupid to me. I mean, sure, it might stop some teen-related incidents from occurring, but then again, it might not.
In case no one has noticed, teenagers always find a way to get what they want. Most teenagers nowadays look older than what they actually are, and let's not forget that neat little invention called "the fake ID."
Now, if someone looks older than 18 and has a card that says it, can you really deny them entry from a specific establishment? No, you cannot. Plain and simple: You cannot and you will not stop teenagers from doing what they want.
Another thing that has caused me to be angered by this whole discussion is the distrust for teenagers. It is almost as if everyone expects us to do wrong in a place such as a nightclub. While certain teenagers may not be mature, there are many of us who are. I'll go as far as saying that some teenagers are more mature than some adults. We all know an "adult" who acts in ways that mirror those of a child. Yet, there's no legislation aimed at them. Any legislation that would prevent or limit the access of teenagers to nightclubs basically amounts to another form of separation. It is modern segregation, pulling the "adults" away from the "children." What I have also interpreted it as is a form of mind control.
Though my opinion will more than likely not have any effect on the passing of any legislation, I still felt I should speak out. I feel like it is my duty as a student. I feel that I should speak up for the number of teenagers who know how to carry themselves in public places.
Nevelious Jordan, 16
Junior, Theodore Roosevelt High School
'In the House by 10'Washington is my town, a city with a lot of young people looking for something to do. Although there are more than enough museums, theaters and other national attractions during the day, most teenagers go to nightclubs because there is nothing else to do at night. Some teenagers go to go-gos to have fun, but there are others who just want to fight someone because that person is not from the same area. I don't go to clubs for two reasons: One, because I find other places to hang out with my friends, like the movies and the mall. Second, my mother doesn't allow me to go to any clubs just because there are fights during the night and after they close.
Personally, I don't have time to be fighting anyone. If I ever go, I'd just want to dance and have fun. This violence has to stop! But I just know that's what's been happening is going to keep happening. When I was a little younger I used to think fighting was the only way to solve your problems, but now that I'm older and wiser I know that fights sometimes lead to death. Nowadays, people don't use their hands, they buy a gun and shoot to kill. Even if you try to just talk something out, the person still may pull a gun out to kill.
I believe that every person under the age of 17 should be in the house by 10 p.m. during the summer because of the crime and killing rate. The problem with that is there still would be killings going on because it's really not just young people killing each other; it's older people, too.
I also believe nightclubs should not be for people under the age of 21. That's just how I see it. Teenagers should just continue going to the malls and movies, or whatever else that's out there to do. I don't understand why any parents would let their child even go to a nightclub without adult supervision. Not only that, why would these so-called nightclubs sell alcohol to young people and then let some of them smoke whatever they have on them?
I don't think teenagers should be able to go to nightclubs because of the fights, killings and whatever else goes on there. Let's stop the violence so that I can have fond memories to carry with me in the future.
Darrelle Montgomery, 17
Senior, Anacostia High School
Going to Clubs 'Just to Fight'Washington is a small city with a lot of problems. I really don't understand. D.C. is so nice to those who see it from the outside, but five blocks from the White House, you see a lot of people on the corners. There are a lot of drugs in this city. Many youths today don't have any clue about the important issues facing them in the future. They are just interested in what's happening in the clubs. Personally, I don't like the fact that there are a lot of murders and fights in the clubs.
I believe that go-go clubs should be shut down. One reason is that many young people don't care about their futures. There are a lot of fights and gangs. Today, there are more gang girls than gang boys hanging out in the clubs. It's all about what hood you're from.
I have been in a gang with my friends. We used to go to go-go clubs just to fight. When two of my friends were murdered and some others went to jail, we stopped going to the go-go clubs. I have lots of friends, but some have died and some are still in jail. Most of them were shot.
Go-go clubs are great for some people, but I know that the clubs must be tired of people getting shot and beaten up. I stopped hanging on the block because it was not safe for me and my friends. Some of my friends are still on the block. They don't care about their futures.
Go-go clubs are for young people to have a chance to enjoy a good time, but when there are gangs and hoods that don't like each other, that's when the problems begin. When my friends and I went to a go-go one night, we had a great time because it was my birthday. In the club the members of the band M.O.B. were singing, "It's Your Birthday, Doo-Doo." That's my nickname. They were recording, and they put me on the album. I was so happy!
But go-go bands start some of the "beef" that goes on in the clubs. When a band such as A37 sings, "What you goin' to do Choppa City?," that starts the beef with the gangs and hoods.
If young people stop all the beef they have with each other, then I think they will be able to hang out in clubs.
Alton McDougle, 18
Senior, Anacostia High School
'I Love to Party'The controversy about D.C. nightclubs selling liquor and admitting underage people is really a big deal. Some of the problem takes place between the youths and the big bouncers, better known as security. Teens just have to pay an extra $10 to get in without an ID. Many teens think going out to 18-and-older clubs, not go-gos, means they're grown. They think they'll be chilling, drinking, smoking weed, and that the fighting stuff won't happen. But it does. It's worse. Stepping on someone's shoes will get something started. When someone is drunk, he or she gets even wilder.
Some clubs say you must be 18 to get in and 21 to drink. But it doesn't stop the 18-year-olds from drinking. They are going to drink before, after, or even at the club. It's so easy. All you need is a male or female crackhead to get it for you. Many people throw house parties. Drinks and drugs are provided there. It won't stop.
Do drugs and alcohol influence teen violence? Somewhat, because the teen is wasted, and somebody gets to "faking," starting something. You are going to do something back. In these days, someone may go and get a gun or a knife. I'm not calling anyone stupid, but it's killing us teens. It's like we don't care anymore.
Do I think clubs should be closed to teens? No! Especially those that admit all ages, because that's where we spend most of our time. For example, I go to the go-go every Saturday night when I get off work. I love to party, and of course, I've been in some situations. Why? Because of the other side popping off their mouths. Sometimes, you can ignore it, but five times is one too many.
Most fights start over little stupid stuff, like a dispute over the name of a group or a boy or girl someone is talking to. Everyone knows D.C. is original, and then Maryland tries to be who we are. That goes for fashion, as well.
Go-gos are our second home. Where would we go and what would we do without them? They keep us out of even bigger trouble from 7:30 p.m. until midnight. Closing the clubs would increase the population of teenagers selling drugs, killing and going to jail.
All in all, stop letting underage teens get in the clubs for people 18 and older, and give us more time in the go-gos.
Monica Childs, 17
Senior, Anacostia High School