It is unfortunate that several local high school graduation parties, including the one described on this page last week {"The Police at Our Party," Close to Home, June 21}, ended with arrests, bad feelings and bad publicity. Parents at South Lakes High School in Reston had a very different experience. They, too, were concerned about problem parties and decided to offer alternative celebrations after the prom and graduation.

Both parties were organized by parents with the support of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association (of which I am immediate past president), administration and faculty, as well as other community members. Both parties were advertised from the very beginning as alcohol- and drug-free and were held at the Reston Community Center. Two uniformed county police officers were hired to patrol the parking lots. In addition, undercover officers and ABC board representatives checked the parties.

The post-prom breakfast, planned by a joint committee of four parents and four students, was held from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. and featured a continuation of the dance with a deejay and decorations, while a local restaurant donated two chefs and the ingredients for more than 400 custom omelettes. Parents provided the rest of the food. The price of the breakfast was incorporated into the price of the prom ticket, which gave the students an added incentive to come -- 500 of the 750 students attended the party.

Three weeks later parents held an all-night graduation party for seniors with nearly two-thirds of the class attending this first-time event. The party rules were specific and well-publicized: the party would be from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. with no one admitted after midnight; seniors only were invited; a senior could leave at any time but would not be readmitted; those who left early would be ineligible for prizes, the largest prizes would be given at 5 a.m.

A steering committee of seven parents began work on this party in February. There was a live band and a deejay for dancing, casino and carnival games with many prizes, movies, the '87 graduation video, a fortune teller, beauty makeovers, caricatures, candid photos, swimming, a baby-photo contest, international snack foods, soda bars, breakfast and door prizes drawn every hour culminating in cash awards and "Party All Night" T-shirts, which were given out at 5 a.m.

All seniors received either "confirmed" (paid) or "stand-by" (unpaid) "boarding passes" in the mail before the party, along with the party rules and prize and donor lists. Stand-bys could be converted at the door. Upon entering, each senior received a "passport" for the "Republic of South Lakes," which contained his or her senior picture, door-prize tickets and $6,500 worth of play money (each denomination had a caricature of a different teacher) to be used in the casino. The passports served as the students' IDs and were used to claim prizes.

The community was solidly behind this effort with more than 200 businesses, organizations, churches and professionals contributing prizes, food, materials or money. Hundreds of parents donated their time to make the party a success.

Parties of this kind have been held in other parts of the United States for at least 30 years, but they appear to be new to the Washington area -- at least with this kind of community involvement. Both parties were a great success and a new annual tradition has begun at South Lakes High School.

-- Sharon Murphy