In an effort to curb alcohol consumption by teenagers, the Glen Ridge Municipal Alliance Committee is sponsoring a new initiative called “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most.” The idea is that in addition to existing programs that educate junior high and high school students about the safety and legal downsides of drinking, parents in the community need to be aware of the liability risks that come along with allowing (or even tacitly condoning) underage alcohol use in their homes.
“Teenagers are developing children in adult bodies and are going to push boundaries. That’s what teenagers do!” says Heather Kobylinski, who is a district student assistance counselor in Glen Ridge and a member of the Municipal Alliance. “We want parents and other trusted adults to be educated as well as to the risks and consequences of allowing and promoting underage drinking, to help them make better, more informed decisions.”
At the center of the “Parents Who Host” initiative is a very specific reminder of the liability parents face when teenagers drink at their houses. They point to both New Jersey’s state laws and chapter 9.20 in the Glen Ridge municipal code, which prohibits consumption of alcohol by minors, serving alcohol to minors and allowing consumption. Any violations of the code, and the corresponding NJ laws barring underage drinking, can carry both monetary fines and/or jail time for the parents.
Kobylinski says the Municipal Alliance is hoping to get all Glen Ridge parents on the same page, so that the whole community speaks with a single voice and sets clear boundaries for their kids.
“Parents need to have the support of each other to do what is right,” she says. “It is illegal to serve alcohol to minors in your home, and it is not acceptable for other parents to make that decision for others at the risk of creating a ‘safe’ drinking environment because ‘teens will do it anyway.’”
“Parents Who Host Lose the Most” is a national program from the Drug Free Action Alliance, and Glen Ridge is one of many communities around the country using the program to send a unified message to kids—and their parents.
“This is a small town, and news travels fast,” says Kobylinski. “We need to set the example for children and reinforce what is right and not worry so much about being their friend. Our children have friends. They need parents.”
For more information on “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most,” visit the DFAA website here.